Former Mamelodi Sundowns, Benoni United and AmaZulu midfielder Thabo 'Ntshebe' Mabaso has revealed why he never considered playing for Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
Mabaso, who was born in Meadowlands, Soweto exactly 41 years ago today, was among the first group of players at the SAFA School of Excellence in 1994 after he was scouted by Sam Mbatha.
Reflecting on his career, he talks about why he never returned to one of the biggest clubs from his area.
"I didn't even want to go there," Mabaso tells KickOff.com.
"What I believe in is that in football all teams are strong. If you play well for a team, they will give you money no matter how small they are. I believe every team has got money.
"At Chiefs and Pirates it is not easy to find game-time there no matter how good you are. I think line-ups are determined by salaries. If that wasn't the case, we would be seeing a lot of youngsters playing there.
"You know something like, 'Hey, we are paying this guy a lot of money but he is not playing.' So that is the reason I preferred small teams because I could enjoy my football without unnecessary pressure. There's a lot of pressure in those two clubs, a loss is not accepted there. When you fail to win the league you can't even walk in the street."
Check out some pictures of Mabaso's PSL career in the gallery above
'Ntshebe' explains how he came up through Sundowns' structures at the start of his career but had to leave when the senior team coaches started to change.
"At the age of 18 I moved to Sundowns' reserve side but after only two months we signed with their first-team earning R500 a month. That was in the season of 97/98," he recalls.
"In that very same contract I forced them to pay for my studies so I could study journalism. I was already there during the Rothmans Cup, I even won the BobSave with them at a very young age. I didn't play more than five games there though.
"What followed was a loan to Black Leopards, that's when we promoted them to the PSL. When I went back to Sundowns, Ted Dumitru was no longer there, the likes of Neil Tovey were now in charge.
"In the season of 1999/00 I went to Maritzburg City, and when I returned to Sundowns I was sent on loan again, this time to LFA side Corinthians. After spending three years there I decided to take a break from football to concentrate on my studies.
"After three months Dumisani Ndlovu took me to his club, Benoni Premier United. We all earned equal salaries there, R4 000. I retired at AmaZulu in the 2010/11 season. I grew tired of fighting club chairmen and coaches. In South Africa once you raise concerns, coaches victimise you."
Mabaso, who says Cape Town City star Thabo Nodada reminds him of himself, now owns a football academy as a way of making ends meet.
"The most I earned in football was R20 000 at AmaZulu," he reveals. "The way I'm so in love with football it makes it difficult for me to get married. I'm married to football.
"I do have kids though, two boys [8 and 11] and one girl . These days to put food on the table I hustle here and there, I'm just busy in my academy. There's nothing that I'm doing that is stable you see. I'm also relying on my savings."
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