Thabo Cele knows European culture now

Midfielder Thabo Cele of CD Cova da Piedade with Jose Semedo of Vitoria FC in action. Cele enjoys life in Portugal. / Gualter Fatia/Getty Images
Midfielder Thabo Cele of CD Cova da Piedade with Jose Semedo of Vitoria FC in action. Cele enjoys life in Portugal. / Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

SA Under-23 international Thabo Cele's initial evaluation of life in Portugal was that every local was self-absorbed after witnessing one Portuguese man vehemently refusing to share a cigarette on the streets during his early days in the country in 2015.

But that changed a few months after getting to understand the Europeans' culture and mentality.

What was your first impression of life in Portugal?

I thought people here are only thinking about themselves... in 2018 I saw a man begging for a skyf [cigarette]... the guy who was asked just refused. In South Africa, that's abnormal. That memory lasted for a while. It was when I started to interact with many people where I noticed it's just their culture that cigarette isn't shared, not that they're selfish.

How is the food?

It's almost the same as eMzansi. Like in SA, they have their own traditional food, but you can also eat your chicken, beef and rice, that's what I usually eat. I don't like their traditional food at all.

You're fluent in Portuguese already... what helped you?

Yes, I speak good Portuguese [laughing and boastfully throwing in some few Portuguese words]... I can say I am 80 percent fluent. It's a big deal to know Portuguese... I learnt it through my former Brazilian teammate, who's my roommate.

He never understood English and I was blank in Portuguese as well, so usually we used Google translate to communicate, we'd laugh at something after Google had translated, so that forced me to push myself hard to learn Portuguese.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Luckily I have many countrymen [such as Siphephelo Sithole, who plays for Belenenses' U-23s and Sibusiso Shibane of Portimonense, among many others] who are here. We usually go out, see places. Normally, we go to Lisbon City.

Playing overseas comes with an expectation that you earn well, are you happy with your package there?

It's a pity I haven't played for any team in SA [after transferring to Portugal straight from KZN Academy in 2018], so I can't really compare what I get to what SA players get in the PSL or NFD [the GladAfrica Championship].

So, in a nutshell I can say that in Portugal big clubs pay way better than the smaller ones, the difference is too big. I am trying, I am okay. But I hope I'll get more as I grow up.

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