Former Kaizer Chiefs left-back Buti Sithole has acknowledged that "things happened too fast for me" in a career that thrived duriing his teenage years before wilting to its end when he was 26 at University of Pretoria.
Sithole was 16 when he was promoted to the Chiefs first team at the beginning of the 2002/03 season, but it is now almost a decade since he last played professional football, yet he is still only 35.
"Things happened very fast for me when I was still very young," admits Sithole speaking to KickOff.com.
Even by the time Sithole went away on loan to Zulu Royals after three years in the first team at Chiefs, he was still a teenager.
"I went to clubs that I was involved in their promotion like Zulu Royals, Black Aces and Tuks but then it didn’t work out in the end because I would then be chased away. In the end I realised that there were issues that I needed to fix as a black person. Something was not right in my career, but I have since fixed it all," he says.
Sithole, who has since moved away from football to earn a living, says former players should never have issues with swallowing their pride to pursue other avenues in life past the days that brought them fame.
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"I had pride in the beginning but had to swallow it because your family doesn’t eat your pride. In football fame can come and when it goes you can even lose weight from being labelled names. Luckily with me I never changed from the person that I had always been. Right now, I am happy where I am and have made peace with where I am. Life goes on and you cannot be a pity case while still alive," says Sithole.
"Football cannot accommodate all of us who played because we are way too many, but life still goes on. I played football all my life and never knew anything about doing any other kind of work, so it was so tough because I never imagined outside of football.
"I had pride in the beginning but then as time went on and spent time with people who could advise me, I realised that I didn’t have much of a choice but to stand up. It was tough because I had programmed myself to football only to find out that life is not like that. Growing up makes you wise. The challenge is that most people tend to think that most former players wasted money and forget that the contracts we signed were different.
"Once football is in the past it shouldn’t be a concern that you get to do something else for a living. People will obviously talk but as a man you must be strong instead of sulking in the house worrying about what people will say. Football contracts are never lifetime binding at clubs, and they can release you as soon as tomorrow."