By Mandla Dladla and Andile Dladla
A radio commentator who specialized in sport and is considered among the best in his trade is dropping the microphone much to the anguish of his millions of followers he has built over a decade with Ukhozi FM and is considering going into farming.
Sphamandla Mavuso has covered sport for one of the biggest radio stations in Africa for over a decade and as he comes closer to dropping the mic, he filled us in about his deep love for sport, especially football and about his undying love for his son.
“I fell in love with sports not for commercial reasons because when I was a little boy all I wanted to do was to participate or compete in a fairly environment. It did not matter whether one came from an advantaged or disadvantaged background, you just had to be yourself.
“I remember former FIFA President Sepp Blatter once said: “football is one interesting sport because all you need is a soccer ball and some space depending on how you want to play.”
But these days football is no longer a recreational past-time. It has been commercialized and is run as a business entity. It sadly means for most of the time that the have nots will most likely be side-lined because everything is about making more money out of the game. The standard of football for me is not where it is supposed to be, I think we keep fooling ourselves every season that it is improving yet in truth it is not.
Mavuso feels it is disingenuous of us as a country to claim our football has improved, asking what gives us that impression and, how do we measure the standard of the game?
“Do we look at the players we export to foreign countries and the quality that we export? Or do we look at the number of foreign nationals that we have imported into the DStv as well as the quality that those foreigners bring?
“There’s simply too many questions than answers for me. Where football is heading right now it will only be those who have the means and the resources that will unfortunately make it,” adding that the Covid-19 pandemic has not made things easier as clubs are denied the opportunity to accrue income from gate takings.
“Football is about fair play. I was fortunate to watch and play the game in the dusty streets, go to a soccer stadiums or watch it on the national broadcaster (SABC) but it’s no longer like that.”
Mavuso’s day as a sport commentator starts very early in the morning where he checks all the news channels because it’s always a must to know what is happening on the news in the country and the rest of the world. The various television channels updates him about sports news around the world and he usually focusses on highlights.
“Results and fixtures are also very important too, because you could actually receive a call while you are live from a listener asking you on air about the results of a particular event and you’ve got to know the answer. All that makes me better prepared or ready for my day.”
If there is a story that he is not certain about that he hears about either on the radio or television then he calls his colleagues even from outside the media space to find out what the story is all about or the background of the story. He researches from different sources to have a better understanding of the story.
“Another thing that has been working for me over the years is that I keep in touch with everyone in the world of sport, from athlete, sportsmen and women as well as journalists,” he explained.
“I have known those people for many years and we share stories. That is basically how my day starts. I am then off to the gym after the breakfast show then it is music production. I have been producing music for the past 10 years, get into the studio and see what I can work on.
“Sometimes I get songs from different producers like Sun-El Musician, Demor, Shots, Zakes Bantwini, Zakwe and Zola 7 just to name a few. Those are things that I do and the most crucial one is I spend time with my son and we are always together.”
Mavuso might have not made it as a professional footballer but he did play a lot from when he was still as little as eight years old. He has represented Kwazulu Natal and was once selected for the SA under 23 national team but did not play due to injury at the time. Playing professional football was just not meant to be for him and that is how he consoled himself.
Development was not taken serious back then which made it extremely difficult to make it to the PSL so in order for one to crack it, you had to be extremely lucky and be at the right place at the right time but it was just not meant to be for him and he made peace with the realization.
Mavuso hails from an area that is very fertile in rich in talent. His area produced the likes of Helman Mkhalele, the late Sizwe Motaung, Siyabonga Nkosi and currently Sifiso Hlanti. He wonders if development was intensified across the country where South Africa would be right now?
“The advice I have for someone who wants to pursue sports presenting or rather what I know works and has been working is that one must be passionate enough to do it all the time without hesitation. It makes it easier if it becomes a lifestyle than just a job. So I know that has worked for me on radio and a whole lot of people.
“It is true that I am leaving Ukhozi FM as a sports presenter after a decade on air. The plan has always been to stay 10 years so I will no longer be on air from the 1st of April 2021.
“We amicably decided with the public broadcaster that it was time and just like football, after 90 minutes it is game over. I have a few interesting job offers. I will be taking a break and consult with people who have always been leading the way for me and get advice from them too.”
Mavuso plans to go into farming.