Local football coach Ike Pula from Ga-Setati village in Moletjie doesn’t dream of coaching a professional soccer team anytime soon as he rather wants to focus on sharing knowledge with aspiring coaches and help youngsters achieve their goals. Applying his skills and knowledge, he intends to plough back into the community by linking talented players with professional soccer clubs.
Pula has been in the football fraternity for decades and has led several teams from the side line including Sister Park playing in the then Vodacom league as well as Lesedisedi and Ray Pillars in the ABC Motsepe league.
He recently coached the provincial u.16 boys’ soccer team that won the South African Schools Sport Championships in Gauteng to bring home gold medals. He holds various positions in the football sphere that include being the provincial scout for Mamelodi Sundowns development side, South African Football Association (Safa) Capricorn regional technical officer, provincial u.19 boys head coach and panellist for all the selections for provincial football teams.
Pula has already promoted several players who are playing for professional football teams such as Keletso Makgalwa (on a loan to Maritzburg United from Sundowns), Tendo Mukumela (Ajax Cape Town), Cassius Mailula (Sundowns multi-choice), Albert Machete (Sundowns u.19), Matlou Kekana and Lesetja Maja (Sundowns u.15) and Iniesta Mmatli (Sundowns u.17). At the recently national Schools Sport Championships, Sundowns development side spotted goalkeeper Koketso Mokou and striker Itumeleng Selemela while SuperSport United have shown interest in the provincial team captain Clen Malesa and goalkeeper Karabo Mpaneng.
Pula is a qualified coach who acquired a Confederation of African Football (Caf) A-License, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) Coaching Instructor Licence and he is also a first aid practitioner.
The 62-year-old soccer guru retired from his position in the supply chain management at the Pietersburg Provincial Hospital in December 2017 to focus on promoting the game of football.
He said “It makes me happy when I see aspiring soccer players succeed. My wish is to become the national scouting division head for Sundowns or Safa so that I can introduce programmes that focus on promoting youth. We need scouts in schools, rural and urban areas and at every street corner. I enjoy identifying talent. I can only coach a professional team provided that team owners don’t interfere with my work.”
Pula believes that talent alone is not enough for a player to succeed as he mentioned that one must be passionate about the sport, work hard and be disciplined both on and off the field.
According to him, a best player is one who has the aforementioned aspects. He reiterated that as a coach he doesn’t lose because each loose comes with a lesson. He went on to say it is important to know parents or guardians of the players you are working with rather than just focusing on a player.
Pula stated that he learns a lot from the South African coach Trott Moloto and Safa Coaching Education head Frans Mogashoa whom he has close working relationships.
He encouraged those who want to become best coaches and professional scouts to have a sharp eye for talent, know the rules of the game and listen to advices.
He added that scouts don’t have to look for the obvious in a player but try to find that extraordinary player. Pula concluded by urging aspiring coaches to enrol in coaching courses to broaden knowledge and further encouraged youngsters to persevere, work hard and learn as much as possible to become best athletes.
Story & photo: ENDY SENYATSI