By Thomas Kwenaite
Tando Velaphi has been itching to try his luck in the bludgeoning South African Premier League now for almost two years. But with seemingly no concrete offers landing on the table, the 28-year old shot stopper is re-considering his options.
The Melbourne City first choice goalkeeper who has represented Australia at U-20 and U-23 level is now seriously considering trying out in the Japanese A-League and chances are he could be a huge success in Asia.
Born in Perth of a Japanese mother and Zimbabwean father, Velaphi revealed that Melbourne City has agreed to release him on condition they find a suitable replacement.
“Now that they have signed former Danish international goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen during the off-season,” said Velaphi. “City has agreed to release me although some of the directors are loath to let me go.”
City manager John van’t Schip revealed that the fact that Velaphi could easily quality for a Japanese passport due to his parentage could make things easier for him without being registered as a foreigner.
“He is a hell of nice lad and a great goalkeeper who ahs served us with distinction,” said van’t Schip. “And if he can be guaranteed first team football at his age (28) that would be a fantastic career move,” added the manager.
However, Velaphi has expressed his desire to test his strength in the South African league. He just did not mind which team was interested as long as he could get an opportunity to play in the Premiership, which he gets to watch in his native Australia.
“I have seen players from Australia and New Zeeland going there and doing well for themselves, especially Jeremy Brockie. And I have a feeling that I could also succeed. But if there is no offer forthcoming, I am prepared to try out in Japan.”
Velaphi, an activist who is campaigning strongly against racism in society and in sport, has been made one of the ambassadors of the “Racism – it stops with me!” campaign, which is gaining wide support in Australia.
There have however, been sufficient attempts to battle the racism issue. The ‘Stand up, Speak up’ campaign launched in 2005, led by famous and then Arsenal player Thierry Henry, and the ‘It stops with me’ campaign was started in 2012.
The ‘Stand up, Speak up’ campaign was an initiative of Nike and was helped by the products that they sold to help the cause, such as wristbands to entice and enthuse young people to support the cause.
Both of these campaigns have helped to put up a fight against racism in sport. It worked successfully with the publicity it gained and the support it found with these interlocked wristbands, particularly with young adults.
‘It stops with me’ is a particularly significant campaign as it aimed at racism against Aborigines who suffer the most in a dominantly white society.
According to a survey conducted by the Australian Government, “More than 1 in 20 Australians say they have been physically attacked because of their race” (Australian Government, 2013, Online).
These statistics prove the fact that racial prejudice reflects on Australian society. There have been many athletes involved in this campaign including Michael Clarke, the Australian Cricket Team captain, and Tando Velaphi, professional footballer for Melbourne Victory.
“I’m extremely happy to be a part of this initiative,” said Velaphi. “Racism has no place in football,” he said, adding he wants to help the fight against racism in the A-League.