The power behind ‘Tower’
Posted: 10 May 2011 Time: 11:32 am
Bloemfontein Celtic’s young defender Erick Mathoho is the Premiership’s next big thing – but he could be headed overseas if the ‘big three’ do not snatch him up.
Mathoho has been in the news a lot recently, he is in Pitso Mosimane’s squad to face Tanzania, has been nominated for Absa Premiership Young Player of the Season, and received a notable mention in the PSL Player of the Month Award for March/April.
In the latest edition of KICK OFF (out now!) we speak to the player’s coaches, who believe he is good enough for an overseas move, despite this being only his first season in the Premiership.
“He is a very quiet boy ... a bit like I was as a player,” says Celtic coach Clinton Larsen, who was a scheming midfielder with Manning Rangers and Orlando Pirates in the 1980s and ’90s.
“I used to go to training and then go home, so I understand this player. You need to show you believe in him and encourage him a lot – but he has ambitions to play overseas one day and I think he will definitely do that.”
Mathoho made his debut for Amaglug-glug against Libya recently, and Larsen says he showed character rare for a player his age.
“He is only 21 but he has been outstanding,” Larsen says. “He is never overawed by big occasions or big-name players and teams ... he carried his club form to the national team with ease. Not many players can do that.”
‘Tower’ made his debut against Mamelodi Sundowns on February 3, 2010, when Owen da Gama was in charge at Celtic.
“I knew in my heart the first time I saw him that he was a gem,” Da Gama says. “He was not big-headed; he was hungry.
But Da Gama cautions Mathoho against a hasty move to the bright lights of Gauteng. “He must go overseas, but if an overseas move doesn’t happen, he must remain at Celtic,” he says.
“Yes, the big clubs will promise him big money. But the player comes back a reluctant contributor.
“I know players get more exposure at Chiefs, Pirates or Sundowns, but the pressure is so much higher there with five players competing for the same position. It is going to put him under unnecessary pressure.”
But Larsen is confident in Celtic’s new hero: “I don’t think he will go off the track as he has the right attitude – a good professional and humble like Bongani Khumalo.
“He has a very good head on his shoulders and does not smoke or drink. Tower is a special player – but it is also up to us at Celtic to keep him and the other youngsters grounded and on the right path,” the coach says.
Get the latest KICK OFF (issue 405, on shelves now!) to read the inspirational story of how Mathoho was ‘developed’ in a tiny village in Venda, with bruised feet, balls made out of onion bags and games on maize fields: “we would normally play there after harvest time when there were no crops to destroy,” he says.
“Sometimes you would kick the ground and tear off your toenail ...”
To read the latest issue of KICK OFF on your iPad, Mac or PC, click here!