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Evidence Makgopa: The rare rose that blossomed from a barren wasteland

Evidence Makgopa is that rare rose that grew from a barren wasteland! The rare gem that sparkles in fields that are not supposed to bear any diamonds.

Truth be told, if football were a game in which the law of averages applied, the boy would not have tasted top-flight action.

If the law of averages did apply to the beautiful game, it would be very unlikely that ‘Tower’ would be the man whose signature was sought by Orlando Pirates, a perennial titan in South African football.

He would not have played a part in the biggest spectacle on the continent – AFCON 2023.

In fact, the 23-year-old forward would never have gone to the Tokyo Olympics, that pinnacle of sporting excellence, where he was a shining highlight of South Africa’s ill-fated campaign.

While the much-vaunted golden generation of South African youngsters may fail to sparkle, Makgopa was a beacon in a campaign that promised much but ultimately ended in tears.

He might have shone in Japan’s busy capital – Tokyo – but if the law of averages applied, if the mathematics of chance and fortune ruled over everything in life, he was not supposed to have even been there.

Evidence Makgopa during a game in Tokyo
Evidence Makgopa/Tokyo

His story is just too unlikely, just too fantastic to be real. His tale reads like a far-fetched rags-to-fortune tale ripped from the pages of a story written by an author who was too eager to sell hope.

This is, after all, a lad from Ga-Mampa, a tiny, dusty village on the foot of Burgersfort in Limpopo. It is in Ga-Mampa, where he grew up and did not kick a football in profound anger until he was 13 years old.


The law of averages says they are not supposed to be made in villages on the outskirts of the outskirts, where boys only take football seriously once they reach their teens. They are not supposed to be made in villages where the young play football in the dust, shoelessly without a defined position.

He might be a top gun now, but back in those village days, he did not even know what position he was supposed to play on the football field.

“Five years ago, I was in my village playing tournaments. I didn’t think I would be where I am. I used to play as a defender at amateur football because in the village there are no positions,” the young striker tells FARPost.

According to the striker’s dad, Chichila Makgopa, in the village, where talent and ability supersede well-thought-out tactics, it was customary for young boys to step on the grubby fields and play without any positional restraint.

“The boy is like me. When I was growing up, I used to play either at the back or as a striker,” Senior Makgopa tells FARPost in a separate interview. “I started noticing his talent when he was 14 in 2014. But it was unclear what position he could play. In the village, he would play defence and sometimes upfront.”

Of course, before that, Sammy Sekgobela, his uncle in charge of Sekgobela Santos, suspected football was his number one passion.

“When he was about one and a half years old, his parents used to bring him to watch training. And he seemed to enjoy it. So, I had the feeling he would play football one day because he was always with us at training,” the man affectionately known as ‘Stampo’ says.

Evidence Makgopa of Bafana Bafana in action at AFCON
Evidence Makgopa/ AFCON 2023


Even when his time to play with the big boys came, the youngster would often fill in at left-back. “He started as a defender, playing at left back and central defence for a bit and still used to score,” adds Stampo.

One thing was sure: he treasured playing in big matches like your tournament finals in the village. He would consistently deliver, Stampo says.

Baroka FC chairman Kurishi Mphahlele’s first sighting of the 1.88m tall boy was during a festive season tournament in Limpopo. He was approaching his late teens, not knowing his suitable position, while his age mates, like Goodman Mosele, already had a dance in the PSL 14 months prior.

“We saw him at a festive season tournament in a ground called Ntwampe in Moloke Village in Limpopo. This was in December 2018. And he was playing as a defender when I first saw him,” the Baroka supremo tells FARPost.

The man who oversaw that tournament that brought together 32 teams, Morgan Mamilla, then CEO of Baroka, says it took 45 minutes of football to realise that he was a talent destined for bigger things. He was, however, convinced that his considerable skills could be of better use further up the field.

“When I saw Evidence for only 45 minutes, I knew we had found a gem. Luckily, he stays a kilometre from my house,” Chippa United coach Mamilla tells FARPost.

With the festive spirit in the air, the two men at the helm of Bakgakga felt that in Makgopa, they had found the ideal Christmas gift for the coaches at the club.


That is why, out of all the teams, they left an extra playing kit. And eight soccer balls for his village side. It was their little way of saying ‘thank you’.

Despite his obvious talent, this was still a simple boy from a simple family in the village. And the last thing he wanted to do was to taint his pure heart by shoving too many rands in his pocket too soon.

“We didn’t want to push too much money into his pocket. A portion would go to the parents. We don’t want them to get too much money and start doing funny things,” explains Mphahlele.

A move to Baroka’s development side would be a big step for a player who grew up playing soccer in dusty fields in the villages. The big boys from town had come calling. And the teenager was the hottest property in Ga-Mampa.

But that ideal life in the village, where passion and the love of the game drove boys to the dusty football pitches in the village, where they played with no defined position, would result in a lot of insecurities for the boy when he had to make the inevitable step-up.

Evidence Makgopa during his Baroka FC days
Evidence Makgopa

What was his best position? And, more importantly, was he good enough?

“He didn’t think he was good enough. My place is a kilometre from his place. So I went there the following morning after the tournament to wake him up,” Mamilla recalls.

His policeman dad had been sold. He was happy for the boy to move in with him in Lebowakgomo, closer to Baroka’s base.


When he got his chance at the Ga-Mphahlele outfit, it did not take long for the long-legged boy from Ga-Mampa to catch the eye. Sure, even at that stage, he did not know where he truly belonged on the football field, but the talent was evident.

“I went to watch the MDC team playing. And straight away, he stood out from everyone else,” ex-Baroka coach Dylan Kerr tells FARPost.

Again, he wasn’t playing at the spear’s tip of attack. He was a number 10 – gracefully sitting between the midfield and the offensive line.

“I told the chairman I needed to bring this kid in. We then played Hungry Lions [in the Nedbank Cup], and I played him at 10. It wasn’t working at halftime. I put him as a striker. I thought he would be more suited as a centre-forward. The rest is history,” Kerr says.

The wunderkind struck twice when moved to lead the line of attack.

While football fans who love the top flight are coming to grips with the youth international’s talent after a barnstorming debut season, Kerr has what it takes to play at a higher level.

The Maltese-born coach is convinced the 2021 DStv Young Player of the Season is a cyborg of sorts. An unusual player whose very body parts seem to have been borrowed from some of the game’s greats.

“When I first saw him, he reminded me of Patrick Vieira. He’s got the height and the long stride. The Yaya Toure type of player because of stature,” he adds.

Makgopa’s agent, Paul Mitchell, has also watched him evolve from that number 10 role to a forward.

“He can finish, is very good in the air. He has an unbelievable work rate. There is still a lot to develop in his game. He has raw ability. Natural ability in abundance,” Mitchell tells FARPost.

At the Olympics, South Africans caught a glimpse of a player who would lead the line for Bafana Bafana.

“South Africans haven’t seen the best of this boy,” says Stampo. “He just got started. There’s a lot to come from him.”

RELATED STORY: Riveiro reveals how he deals with the maturing Evidence Makgopa

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