In a Planet Sport Football Africa exclusive, we caught up with Bafana Bafana footballer, Nelson Maluleke about playing in the South African Premier League, representing his country at an U17 World Cup and his Christian faith:
As a homegrown player, how do you rate the South African Premier League?
"Being in the Premier League in South Africa is not easy, you need to work hard to prepare yourself. You have to face a lot of challenges and fight for what you want."
You've already played a big part in the Bafana Bafana youth system, as Captain, how good has that experience been?
"For me it's a big deal, even though we did not qualify for the next stage, for us, qualifying for the CAF and the World Cup is not easy. I've gained a lot of experience there from playing in a World Cup and playing in AFCON. Being captain also shows the character that I have and the leadership. I've learnt a lot from those tournaments at a young age."
Did you enjoy being Captain?
"Being the captain is really not easy because everyone is looking upon me and you have to make the country proud. You have to make sure that we go home with some positive results so I was always motivating the players, saying that we need to work hard because the country is behind us. It's a honour."
Alongside your football, how important is your faith to you?
"For me, being where I am today is because of God. He has been doing wonderful things for me, things that I believed were impossible but with Him they become possible. I was always praying to get into the national team and it happened because I really love God and I know deep in my heart that I am am his son. Without God I am nothing.
How much does your faith impact your football or do you keep them separate?
"I don't really do things that aren't involving God because He is always there for me so I need to be faithful in my football and the things that I have."
Does your faith make life easier when you go through hard times, with injury, loss of form etc?
"Yeah definitely, even now I am injured and I'm always praying to God for him to please help me get back."
For those young footballers in South Africa who would love to represent Bafana Bafana, what piece of advice would you give them?
"All I can say to the young South African players is that you mustn't give up, because for me to be where I am today, I worked very hard. I've been praying about it and I've been praying very hard on and off the field. It's not going to be easy for you, as a young player, to get a club so you need to work very hard and be prepared, anything is possible with God.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE FROM NELSON MALULEKE?