20 February 2018 – Another former SAB League player has graduated into the professional ranks of South African football. However, not on the actual playing field this time around but on the administration side of the game.
QwaQwa-born Themba Zimo is a qualified Associate Attorney who used to play his football in the SAB League before joining University of Free State’s Varsity Cup side where he flourished under the Varsity Cup.
SAFA.net caught up with the 23-year-old footballer who is now dealing with the legal matters of football as a lawyer.
- SAFA.net: Tell us how your love for football began?
Themba Zimo: I grew up in a family that loved football. My late uncle, Jabu Khumalo used to be the Public Relations Officer of Free State Stars FC back home in QwaQwa. From then on I was privileged to always accompany him to games and that is where I learned not to just be a supporter but to love the behind the scenes of the game as well.
- SAFA.net: How important was it for you to be involved in football growing up in your neighborhood?
TM: Where I am from, at least at the time, you had limited choices if you wanted to stay away from the street life. That for me was football and books. I noticed early in life that although my uncle exposed me to the operational side of things when I saw him work, I however loved playing the game a lot. Therefore, for many young people in the township, myself included, football actually saves our lives. Either you play to become professional and in turn, stay away from a lot of bad company, or you will succumb to the sad realities that confront our people which is poverty and crime.
- SAFA.net: Can you highlight some things that you feel would have easily derailed your life had it not been for football?
TM: It is funny because people back home still struggle to believe how I became a lawyer instead of a footballer. If it was not for football, it was going to be crime and bad company. If I did not play football every day after school, there would be nothing else for me to do but hang around the kids who thought that our imagination should be limited to what we were exposed to, which was only QwaQwa at the time. We were only exposed to the beautiful mountains surrounding our township and we thought that is where life began and ended. So uninspired people would have derailed my life had it not been for football.
- SAFA.net: What influenced your choice of study?
TM: Again, the male figures in my life influenced many of my decisions growing up. My other late uncle was a lawyer, and my mom’s little brother is a lawyer as well. When I thought about what to study, the only course that came to my mind was law. The teachers in my high school always said the same. My participation in various leadership roles in school, my strong academic background and my love for debating would always persuade any school teacher to advise a learner to do law. I am a product of those people’s views.
- SAFA.net: Unlike, a lot of footballers, why did you take education seriously?
TM:For me, I have a two-fold view on this. Firstly, I went to University to seek a better life for myself outside my hometown. I absolutely had no other choice but to do well in my studies because I got through my studies by NSFAS loans, Sports bursaries and ultimately academic bursaries. This I mean, if I slacked in pursuance of my degree, I would have lost that financial support and would have to go back home. Going back home a failure has never been an option for me from the day I left.
Secondly, I had established myself as a footballer for the University of the Free State team, which participated in the varsity football competitions. In addition, I played for the Central University of technology for their ABC Motsepe team. Accordingly, if I lost my education, I would have lost my football at the same time as I was not from Bloemfontein and therefore would not be able to stay there if there was no compelling reason (that is financed) for me to be there.
I have always made soccer and formal education go hand in glove in my life. Hence, I find myself doing the work I am currently doing now. I do not believe they should be separate in any case for any footballer in this day and age.
- SAFA.net: How difficult was it for you to balance football and education?
TM: In hindsight, I ask myself everyday how I was able to do all of those things at the same time. However, looking back, they are the most memorable days of my life because I was actually employing my full working potential to things that I loved and that loved me back. I grew up a lot. I have no problem with working hard for what would improve my life or my work, that has never been an issue coming from where I am from. I found peace in the difficultly because I remained inspired and I knew I was doing something other people who maybe loved football like myself, were not doing. I knew something good had to come out of it.
- SAFA.net: What is your current job title and tell us you enjoy the most about it?
TM: I recently joined Tim Sukazi Incorporated as an Associate Attorney. I am enjoying the experience I am getting from Mr Sukazi and his lawyers. My decision was largely based on my admiration for the kind of work he has done in football through his law practice and other business. However, because like him, my training involved corporate commercial law from the law firm I did my articles at; I am not only to be exposed to Sports law, but also other areas of commercial law practice. So the thought of waking up every day to learn from people who have the same passion for football as I do, and that also extend themselves to other things is quite motivational for me and I am looking forward to being part of the success story of TS Inc.
- SAFA.net: Does having a football background make your job slightly easier?
TM:Yes, very much so. In a law practice, client management underpins much of what we do. Therefore, my understanding of our clients (in relation to our sports clients), as people, and professional footballers, helps me manage expectations better and know what is needed from me, for our clients. With the further training I am receiving at the firm, I know it will assist me in the future and I hope it is a bright future.
- SAFA.net:What are the next steps for Themba in the next 3 to 5 years
TM: I am currently doing my Master’s degree in Drafting and Interpretation of Contracts with the University of Johannesburg. Now, my focus is learning to be the best lawyer I can be for TS Inc. and myself. I hope to grow in the legal field and stay relevant in the sporting world as well.