The positives of sport

Mr Tshepo Mataila, a member of the Edenvale Football Club's first team, practicing on the soccer field at the Edenvale Sports Grounds. The soccer player believes strongly in using sport to deal with stress.

Stephan Lehman

Sports can be overlooked by many as being a pastime but for some it can determine their future.

Tshepo Mataila, also known as Jimmy, a member of the Edenvale Football Club (EFC), knows this firsthand after turning to drugs to deal with the stress of everyday life.

“Over the years I have learnt that sports takes you away from the bad things in life and draws you towards the positive aspects in life,” said Tshepo.

The up-and-coming soccer star’s passion for the sport began when he was nine years old when two older boys, from the neighbourhood he grew up in, started organising soccer matches for local children after school.

The pair, who Tshepo looked up to, taught the youngsters the positive aspects of sport.

The pair believed sports could keep children away from negative stress and give them a channel to deal with everyday life.

“We all eventually got into a routine – come home from school, do your homework and play soccer,” said Thespo.

“Sports gives a person the opportunity to further their life and a positive way to deal with their stress.”

In 2009, Tshepo began playing for the EFC after a friend introduced him to the club.

“My friend left the club but I continued playing because I enjoyed it so much,” said Tshepo.

However, despite joining the club and taking part in sports, Tshepo began using marijuana that same year.

He said there was no particular reason for using the drug other than trying to be “cool”.

In 2011, Tshepo stopped using the drug and decided to focus on his sports.

One year later, Tshepo joined the second team of the EFC.

Tshepo said in 2013, while he was in Grade 11, he began using marijuana again but this time to deal with the stress he was facing at school.

“That year was a mean year and it put a lot of stress on me,” said Tshepo.

Realising his future and sports career were in jeopardy, Thespo sought assistance from the two people who inspired his passion for soccer as a youngster.

“The two guys, who by that time were grown up and had their own families, sat me down and set me straight. They told me to remember back to when I was a child and the passion I had for the sport back then,” said Tshepo.

“After getting clean and focusing on my sports, I started to improve and in 2016 I became a member of the EFC’s first team.”

As a member of the EFC, Thespo has won numerous awards and was awarded player of the year on more than one occasion.

“After being awarded player of the year the first time I realised it was soccer that I wanted to pursue. I cherished those awards; getting them made me want to improve myself,” said Thespo.

He believes strongly in what he he learnt as a child – sports can keep you away from dealing with stress negatively.

Tshepo said although times have changed and children have less interest in sports, he tries to give back to youngsters as much as he can in the same way he was taught.

“There needs to be a mentality change around sports. It shouldn’t be seen as a gateway to super stardom but rather a way for you to live better. Along the way you will find the opportunities you are looking for,” said Tshepo.

Stephan Lehman

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