27 March 2023 – South African Under-23 player Thapelo Maseko is very proud after scoring his first international goal and hopes to find the back of the net more regularly as he looks to establish himself in the team.

Maseko sat down with www.www.safa.net in Congo where the team is currently preparing for their second leg CAF U23 Olympic qualifier against the Central Africans on Monday (27 March 2023). He admitted that he is very shy infront of the cameras, but there is no hiding for him this time around. 

Photo: Thapelo Maseko in Congo-Brazzaville where the team is currently preparing for the second leg.

“It was a special goal for me (he scored against the Congolese at Dobsonville Stadium last week). It was my first international goal, but it was a bigger goal for the team to bring us level going into the second leg of the tie. It would have been harder going to Congo while trailing by a goal, so I am happy I could contribute by helping the team.”

Maseko said the camp remains in a buoyant mood ahead of Monday’s tricky match against the hosts and revealed that the chemistry between this group of players has kept the confidence very high.

“The mood amongst the players is positive. We are confident that we will win this match and qualify for the 2023 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco in June,” he continued.

“There is obviously a major difference between club level and national team level, and it teaches us to adjust as a footballers. The intensity and the overall level is different and you have to adjust to playing with a player that you are not used to playing with in order to get the needed results,” 

When asked about about his personal ambitions ahead of 2023 U-23 AFCON and Paris Olympics 2024, Maseko said as much as he is tempted to think about the two events, he prefers to rather focus his full attention on getting past Congo on Monday afternoon first. 

“My first personal goal is to win Monday’s second leg and qualify for the 2023 U-23 AFCON. We have a very good team, with the most talented players in the country, and we are capable of showing the world that we can do wonders.”

Maseko opened up about his dream of playing abroad and the player he turns to for advice as he continues to map  his career path.

“Like every player, I do have ambitions of playing abroad. I draw inspiration from players like Percy Tau because he plays the same position. I look at most of his games and I try to learn from him because he is a good player who made his mark abroad. Whenever I get a chance to chat with him, I ask him about life on the other side of the world (playing overseas).”

Given the hectic football schedule that they are sometimes confronted with, one would wonder what the players get up to outside of the sport. For Maseko, life outside of the sport includes playing FIFA video games, shopping and spending time with loved ones. He says these help him cope with the pressure of his career and improve his mental health.

“It’s difficult to answer a question about what I do outside of football because everything I do revolves around the sport. But as part of improving my mental health, I play a lot of video games. If I was not a professional footballer I would probably be a professional gamer. I usually go shopping and when I am home, I maximize my time with family.”