SA soccer stars embark on 200km desert endurance challenge

Team Soccer is the third team of local sports champions to compete in the Battle of the Sports, a Covid-19 fundraiser

29 September 2020 - 09:08
Team Soccer ready to rumble: From left, Erik Vermeulen (expedition leader), Siyabonga Nomvethe, Neil Tovey (team manager), Teko Modise and Matthew Booth.
Image: Supplied Team Soccer ready to rumble: From left, Erik Vermeulen (expedition leader), Siyabonga Nomvethe, Neil Tovey (team manager), Teko Modise and Matthew Booth.

Looking strong and ready to tackle any obstacles, a team of SA soccer stars on Monday started the 200km BrightRock Battle of the Sports endurance challenge and Covid-19 fundraiser at Verneukpan in the Northern Cape.

Bafana Bafana champions Teko Modise, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Matthew Booth, joined by expedition leader Erik Vermeulen, will aim to beat the blistering pace already set by the rugby and running teams. Team manager Neil Tovey will oversee their efforts.

Booth, who retired in 2014, was looking forward to being part of a team again and challenging himself. “My challenge will be keeping up with Siya, who is still playing professional football, and Teko, who is still very lean and quick,” he said. “Compared with the rugby guys, however, we are all sleek and light on our feet and I think this will be a big advantage.”

Modise is regarded as one of the greatest Premier Soccer League (PSL) players of the modern era. Known as “The General” for his ability to direct play, he has won two PSL Footballer of the Year awards and six trophies, including two PSL titles, the Nedbank Cup, Telkom Knockout, the CAF Champions League and the CAF Super Cup — all while playing for Mamelodi Sundowns. He made 66 appearances for Bafana Bafana, scoring 10 goals.

“I have a naturally competitive nature, and pitting our skills against other codes is something we have never done. As Team Soccer, we need to push ourselves further as footballers and this is a great opportunity,” he said this week.

'Not too much of a challenge'

Nomvethe said the soccer players' mental strength would be a big advantage. “We know it is going to be tough, but we are all used to playing in inhospitable stadiums and environments, particularly in Africa, so the terrain should not be too much of a challenge.”

He played for Kaizer Chiefs (79 caps), Orlando Pirates (14 caps), Moroka Swallows (149 caps) and AmaZulu (70 caps), as well as four European clubs, between 2001 and 2009. He is the highest PSL goal scorer (138 goals) and has represented SA in 81 games, scoring 16 goals. He played in both the 2002 and 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup tournaments and scored SA’s only goal at the 2002 World Cup.

Booth has played for Cape Town Spurs (92 caps), Mamelodi Sundowns (152 caps), Ajax Cape Town (40 caps) and Wits (19 caps). He captained the SA Under-23 team at the 2000 Olympics and played 28 matches for Bafana Bafana, including in the 2010 World Cup, as a defender. He also played in Russia between 2002 and 2008.

Tovey was confident that Team Soccer would do well. “If you are a soccer fan, we appeal to you to support this worthy challenge with a small donation,” he said. “As soccer players we have led a blessed life and now is our chance to support those people affected by the pandemic.

“Your support will make all the difference. It’s about much more than just the bragging rights; it’s about helping the thousands of South Africans who need support — and we will never lose sight of that important goal. If we can inspire our hundreds of thousands of soccer fans to support us and make a small donation, we will have done our job.” 

How do you get involved?

Support your team in the 200km challenge by donating to this worthy cause, or decide what event you want to do — alone or in a team — and visit the Battle of the Sports website to enter and pay for your team.

Film your event — you can also do more than one — and upload the footage onto the challenge's Facebook or Twitter page, or via Instagram. Use the hashtags #battleofthesportschallenge #lovechange when posting.

Then challenge as many of your friends as possible, or any schools, clubs and companies, to do the challenge by tagging them in your social media posts.

The four teams competing in the event:

  • Cricket: Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini, Monde Zondeki; managed by Jonty Rhodes.
  • Rugby: Hanyani Shimange, John Smit, Schalk Brits; managed by Butch James.
  • Running: Bongmusa Mthembu, David Gatebe, Jenna Challenor; managed by Bruce Fordyce.
  • Soccer: Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Teko Modise; managed by Neil Tovey.