More often than not, a conventional football story is that of an eagle-eyed scout unearthing raw talent that goes on to become prominent in football circles. Indeed, South Africa’s football pages are littered with success stories of how scouts discovered some of the best footballers to grace hallowed arenas the world over.
From the headmaster who unearthed Lucas Radebe’s talent, the gangster boss who had a hand in Benni McCarthy’s emergence in the ’90s, to the club owner in Witbank, who first spotted 12-year-old Percy Tau. However, there are always exceptions. In defender Terrence Mashego’s case, it was the other way round because his brilliance gave birth to his professional career and that of scout Pontsho Madumo.
Madumo had an 8:00am to 5:00pm job in Sandton while living in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. His tertiary qualification was in Administration Management, and Clientele employed him as a supervisor. Of course, football is something he had been passionate about as a youngster, often browsing local football publications and spending time on the dusty fields of ‘Hami Town’.
But a broken leg in his teens spelt the end of his playing passion while crushing any hopes of playing the game professionally. “I broke my leg when I was in Matric, so I left to focus on my studies,” Madumo tells FARPost. Years after that football dream had been long forgotten, Madumo heard of a tournament – Bolo Ya Rona – that award-winning assistant referee Zakhele Siwela was hosting in Kanana Township [Hammanskraal].
“I noticed that during the festive season, there are no activities in Hammanskraal, and so I thought of starting a tournament that would entertain people,” Siwela tells FARPost. Straight after knocking off from work on a Saturday afternoon in 2016, Madumo drove to the famous Highlanders Grounds. But he found the match 15 minutes old.
The first action he would witness was a throw-in. A 20-year-old Mashego took that throw-in, catching the eye of Madumo, who worked closely with DJs and musicians at the time. “The energy he showed, the commitment I saw in him as he threw the ball caught my eye. No one told me about him. He ran with so much energy, the same way he does now,” Madumo recalls.
Immediately after that game, which Mashego’s team PSG – a select side from Mamelodi – lost 3-1, Madumo approached the fullback to establish if he could work with him the same way he worked with DJs. “Pontsho approached me asking to manage me. He said there was an opportunity for a trial in Mthatha, but I thought it was a scam,” the Cape Town City star says.
New as he was in the game, Madumo had a plan. He inboxed Siya Mareke of Yo-Boy Management, who was already an established agent, via Facebook. The aspiring agent was seeking guidance and advice. “Pontsho wanted to be an agent, so he eventually gave me a call and said, ‘I’ve got a good player, do you want to talk to your contacts’,” Mareke tells FARPost.
“I called Mthatha Bucks [who were in the NFD]; I said: ‘I know the young man’. They said book him a bus immediately. But before we could organise, Lunga Tukute [the then COO of Mthatha Bucks] called and said they had just fired their coach and wanted us to postpone the trip until a new coach was appointed,” Mareke says.
The Yo-Boy founder had to tell a lie. “I told him that the boy was already on his way.” It was just a little well-intentioned untruth, and it meant everything had to be fast-tracked. Mashego’s mother had to give consent. The second of her four children had to be put on the first bus available.
“At 4pm [on Sunday], Pontsho picked me up and took me to the bus station. It would be a long 12-hour trip. I’d never travelled that long,” Mashego recalls. After landing in Mthatha on Monday, he trained with the rest of the team and was immediately impressed.
“The club called Siya Mareke and told him: ‘we’re signing this boy’. But they told him not to tell me because coach Ian Palmer would arrive on Wednesday to take over as the new coach,” adds the Bafana Bafana left-back. That was the beginning of Madumo’s scouting and agency business. It was the birth of Cream Sports Management, which now manages over 20 players across the DStv Premiership, GladAfrica Championship and the third-tier.
In 2018, Madumo was fired from his job because he was now spending too much time on the agency. His dismissal from work was a blessing in disguise as he decided to focus on his agency entirely. Since then, he has been churning out football talents, one after the other. “I met Nditsheni Nemasisi [owner of JDR] at TUT in 2017 during the ABC pre-season, and I asked to bring players. He signed two players from my stable.”
Inspired by the discovery of Mashego, now revered as one of the best left-backs in the country, Madumo regularly hosts tournaments in eKasi in search of talent. Some of the players under his stable include Black Eagles winger Nkosinathi Onyedikachi Ononogbu, Sekhukhune duo of Pogiso Mahlangu, pictured below, and Nkululeko Hlongo and Baroka trio of Danny Ndlovu, Khuliso Monama and Vusi Sibiya.
At Richards Bay, he has Katleho Maphathe, while Elias Mokwana is at Platinum City Rovers with TS Sporting home to Matome Mabeba. “We give schools sanitary pads. We’re also busy arranging the Terrence Mashego Tournament. All my players need to give back to the community.” Of course, Mashego is now under QT Sports Agency, but Mashego says their brotherly bond is unbreakable.
Madumo got into the scouting business rather by default, but at least he has cleared the path for his players to make a seamless transition into this job upon retirement. His utmost dream is to create employment for them after they are done playing: he wants them to become scouts.