“I met him when I was young, so I didn’t know he was a legend. My dad informed me that coach John Moeti was a respected figure in the SA football sphere. I met him at Steyn City.”
As the saying goes: “Sometimes in life, you meet one person that changes the way you think, alters your perception of life, and nothing else matters apart from them.”
That is the case with Khwinana, whose outlook on life and football changed for good after meeting one of the finest midfielders that SA ever produced.
After hanging his boots, Moeti kept a low profile, with many football lovers wondering about his whereabouts.
However, he was never lost to football as he started the Truth Foundation, where he ran a football club and ignited Khwinana’s love for the beautiful game.
HOW JOHN MOETI IGNITED GUSTAVO’S LOVE FOR FOOTBALL
“I fell in love with football after meeting John Moeti,” Khwinana told FARPost. “He was my coach at Truth Foundation from Under-5 to U-15. I feel honoured to have been coached by John.”
It was at the foundation where Khwinana learnt about life skills through football under the guidance of Moeti, who was also a pastor.
“It was not only about football when I worked with coach John. I got closer to God because of him as he was a pastor. It was football and life skills,” he says.
“I have learnt to be closer to God and the values of life on and off the field as a footballer and a human being. He is the one who nurtured and developed my talent.”
The 24-year-old, Khwinana from Cosmo City, where he started playing football at a tender age, revealed how Moeti also opened doors for him.
Due to Moeti’s influence and connections, ‘Gustavo’ Khwinana was presented with several opportunities at the youth level.
The highly rated left-back remembers vividly a training session in Zevenfontein, now known as Steyn City, opposite Dainfern in 2009 that allowed him to fly out to France.
Scouts from France were watching Khwinana and the rest of the Truth Foundation team from a distance.
“The year was 2009, we were training, just a normal day, playing 11v11, and some scouts arrived. I didn’t know at the time that those were scouts from France invited by John to watch us play,” recalls Khwinana.
“And to my surprise, they wanted to take six players to France. And I was one of them as I had impressed them.”
But disaster and disappointment hit, which in a nutshell, is the tale of Khwinana’s football career. From injury setbacks to contracts getting terminated prematurely.
It was during the same period that Moeti started getting ill.
“That year, we went to Cape Town with the scouts from France to play a mini tournament, the Laureus Foundation tournament, against Ajax Cape Town and Santos,” stated Khwinana.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t travel to France after the tournament because, in 2010, there was a [Icelandic] volcano in France.
“After the tournament, I was supposed to stay in Cape Town to play for Ajax Cape Town juniors. But at the time, I was still very young, so it was difficult learning Afrikaans. I was 11 or 12.
“At the same time, John started getting sick. So he relocated to Limpopo and gave away his club to coach David Lukhele. And that’s when I decided to leave the club as I only played for one more year before joining Shumba Football Academy in 2013.
“When John left, I was not okay; at that time, I was supposed to sign with Orlando Pirates. But as soon as John left for Limpopo, I couldn’t even reach him. But I got a call from his wife, who informed me that John was in a critical state. I was shattered and eager to play for Pirates to make John proud.
“It was John who had called Pirates scouts to watch me in Cape Town. The Pirates deal fell through because the club was communicating with coach John. And at the time, his phone was off, and he was sick.
“A few months later, I met a Pirates youth Development coach, Philani [Kubheka]. He asked me why I didn’t pitch up at Pirates as they had been waiting for me. I told him I did not receive any communication, and he pleaded with me to join them.
“But at the time, I had already joined Chiefs,” added Khwinana.
Moeti, who won the 1996 AFCON title with Bafana Bafana and formed part of the Pirates team that won the CAF Champions in 1995, eventually died in February 2023 after battling an illness for several years.
A NEW CHAPTER FOR GUSTAVO AT SHUMBA
Back to Shumba, the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for Khwinana.
He made his presence felt immediately at the academy as he was made captain of the U15 side and got promoted to the first team.
The leadership and life skills that he learnt at Truth Foundation came in handy as he was a cut above the rest.
Two years into his stint at Shumba, an academy run by an ex-Orlando Pirates captain Edelbert Dinha, Khwinana received a phone call from Kaizer Chiefs legend Cyril Nzama.
Khwinana caught the attention of Nzama, who was coaching Pimville Young Stars while turning out for Shumba in the U17 Future Champions tournament in Vereeniging.
“When Nzama spotted me, we were playing against Orlando Pirates that day,” revealed Khwinana. “I scored a goal. And afterwards, he called and told me that I’m too mature to play at U17 level. That’s how I joined Pimville Young Stars.
“From there on, I formed part of a project called Nike Academy in Soweto. The coaches were Stanton Fredericks, Arthur Zwane and Nzama. I only played about four games, two against Chiefs and my former club Shumba.
“I played one year at Pimville Young Stars in the SAB League and got a national team call-up at U17 level, and that’s when Chiefs started getting interested and monitoring me.
“Coach Zwane convinced me to join Chiefs after seeing me play in the Nike Academy in 2018 as he was one of the coaches. He saw me play regularly and was impressed by my abilities.”
Soon after the player joined Chiefs, he was converted from central midfield to the left back as the now Amakhosi first-team coach, Zwane, wanted ‘Gustavo’ to be versatile.
And like Luiz Gustavo, the Brazilian footballer, Khwinana is intelligent with technical, tactical and physical qualities required in modern-day football. He is good with playing out from the back and can whip in a great cross.
“Khwinana, I gave him the name Gustavo as he reminds me of the player. The way he plays, he does everything that Gustavo did,” said Edelbert Dinha. “The boy is great, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a PSL team signs him.”
At Chiefs, Khwinana put in several good performances, and at some stage, there were calls from the club’s supporters to promote him to the first team. He was the mainstay in the Amakhosi Diski Team.
WHY GUSTAVO PARTED WAYS WITH KAIZER CHIEFS
But for several reasons, such as Covid-19, a knee injury and the changes in the MDC league, Khwinana was forced to part ways with Chiefs.
“I left Chiefs during the time of Covid-19, during which the MDC season was halted. For about six months, the PSL announced the news that the MDC is becoming more of a youth league, from U21 downwards. At the time, I was 21, turning 22, which meant that I no longer qualified to play in the MDC.”
Since being shown the exit door at Chiefs, Khwinana has struggled to find a team in the PSL and has been playing in various Kasi Football Tournaments.
When he left Chiefs, he was still nursing a knee injury, preventing him from joining JDR Stars as they were interested in his services.
“Injuries have hampered my progress in football.
“But I joined TTM after leaving Chiefs even though I didn’t play as the coach at the time Johnny Ferreira later informed me that he wants to work with players he knows.
“From TTM, I got two offers. I was supposed to go to Bantu FC in Lesotho. But the transfer window closed before I could sign due to not having the proper papers.
“Wits also wanted to sign me, but I’m considering going to Poland. I was supposed to go to Poland, but due to Visa issues and not having enough funds, I couldn’t go.
“Agent Lebogang Mashishi organised the trial in Poland. But the team wanted me to pay for my Visa and travel expenses.
“‘Guluva’ [Mashishi ] showed the team Polonia Warszawa, who play in the second division, my video clips, and they were interested. I’m trying to raise money to go there in June.”
“And now I’m playing in Kasi tournaments to keep fit and because it is fun. I play for different teams, such as 18 USB FC, YouFirst FC and East to Soweto.
“I love Kasi football because of the freedom you get to express yourself at the top. There are plenty of restrictions as direct football requires results.”