Former Bafana Bafana defender Morgan Gould has hung up his playing boots and is going to be coaching the Multichoice Diski Challenge side of Sekhukhune United. Gould reflected on his journey and how he became the star he is today.
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In 2001, a young and tall defender made his debut in the paid ranks of professional football for Jomo Cosmos under the tutelage of the master of talent scouting, Jomo Sono.
Although unexpected, it was the break Morgan Gould needed.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said the 38-year old as memories came flooding back, a smile lighting up his face.
“Bra J (Jomo Sono) said to me, ‘Hey mfana, yes you, get ready, you are playing today.’ I could not believe it! Here I was, an 18-year old wet-behind-the-ears defender about to make my debut in the Premier Soccer League. I was ecstatic and shaking at the same time.”
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Sadly they lost 2-0 to Hellenic in Cape Town on the day.
The Soweto-born young man made his debut only because the two regular central defenders, Thabang Molefe and Hilton Jordaan, were away on national team duty – but it didn't matter to him, his goal was achieved. He never looked back.
Gould went on to make 81 appearances for Ezenkosi, as Jomo Cosmos is known.
He left the club in 2008, joining Supersport United, where he was to have two stints with them – from 2008 to 2012 and again from 2016 to 2019 – sandwiched in between was a Kaizer Chiefs move that lasted four years (2012 to 2016).
Gould’s last gig in the PSL was with newcomers Stellenbosch FC, whom he served for one season, before reviving his professional career with Glad Africa 2020/21 Champions Sekhukhune United, and this was after about nine months of being club-less.
He went on to help them win promotion to the elite league – which makes him one of a few players who have won both the NFD and PSL League titles.
After 20 illustrious years, which included 31 appearances for Bafana Bafana, Gould has now called time on his playing career.
“As a player, I knew this time would come, we all know we can’t play forever and I am grateful for all the opportunities that came through this wonderful game,” he said.
“And I know I would not have made it on my own, so I would like to thank my family – especially my wife and kids who have been with me through the good and bad times. They have been my pillar of strength. Gratitude also goes to my friends, all the managers and coaches I have worked with; my opponents – they helped me grow and become a better player than when I originally started.
"How can I forget the fans – at times they criticised but not out of hate, but because they wanted the best out of me. All these structures were part of my journey, and without them I would not have reached the little milestones I reached.
“Right now I am a bit emotional, but these are happy emotions because I know I gave my all and sacrificed a lot of my time and energy for this game. It’s time to step aside from the field and move on to the next chapter of my journey. I leave with a wonderful feeling, knowing that I have changed not just my personal life or my family life but perhaps also some people in the game.”
However, he will not be lost to the game.
“This is just me changing positions – from playing to guiding (he is now the assistant coach of the Sekhukhune FC MDC team). I am entering a new space for me – this is a new journey, something different to what I am accustomed to. Now it is no longer about me the individual but about how I impact the next generation,” said Gould.
With so many distractions for footballers, who are among the high earners in the country, not many players get to last as long as he did.
“When a lot is expected from you, you may never match what you are expected to deliver, but when the least is expected – it is when you deliver more,” he says a bit philosophically.
“With my move from Cosmos to SuperSport, there was no expectation at all but I delivered beyond expectation. From being an ordinary player, to the level where I got, that put me on the market. You just put in the hard work and expect nothing, but there will be rewards at the end as long as you give or sacrifice enough of yourself – and that is my motto in life,” he explains.
“Your talent is 5 per cent, hard work is 80 per cent and the rest will be filled in by your dedication, discipline, determination and mental strength, among others. I have been through a lot of mishaps, and I had to go back to basics where you learn again that this game will treat you as you treat it – respect it and you will have the respect back. The soccer Gods are always there – so do your best and God will the rest.”
For his highs and lows in the game, one would have to go back 11 years.
Being in the Bafana Bafana squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, hosted in South Africa, tops the highlights of his career – but not kicking a ball at the tournament left him at his lowest point.
“Every player wants to play for their country at the highest level – and being in the squad brought so much joy to me, but not playing in the World Cup on home soil was a bitter pill to swallow, especially after being part of the squad for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and the build-up to the World Cup. What lifted my spirits that year was the birth of my son – so yes it was a bittersweet period for me,” said Gould with mixed emotions.
His greatest regret in his playing career was trying to prove a point to people about his abilities.
“My move to Chiefs had its ups and downs. After getting a lot of game time I got injured. When I resumed playing I was at a point where people where doubting me and it played on my mind as I also started doubting myself – and that led to me trying to prove them wrong, when I should have just got on with my game. I lost the reason for playing and focused on making people eat humble pie – and it did not help me at all.
“People come with expectations and you end up wanting to live on those expectations. What I needed to do was to take a step back, reassess, start afresh and move forward, and not worry about what people said or thought.”
He cements his argument with a rare admission by any athlete, saying he was not a good player but had to put in the hard work for him to succeed.
“I maintain I wasn't one of the best players around, but I had to work hard to become an average player and I am still an average player – even at my peak I was an average player. There are talented players out there, but their downfall – not all of them - is that they ride on their talent and don't work hard, believing that things should come to them, and it doesn't work like that, and that is how life is, in general.
"So you create you own luck by working hard at whatever you do in life – and that is how I would like to be remembered,” concluded Gould, whose father was also a famous footballer, Goodenough Nkomo – a prolific midfielder who was on the books of Kaizer Chiefs and Highlands Park."
With a lot of maturity following two decades of playing at the top level, Gould offers some advice:
“This is not just for players but for life in general – reassess at all times, be your biggest critic at what you do. You need to be the first point of reference. Sometimes we dwell on our setbacks, and live in dark moments, when, in essence, they (dark moments or setback) are there to help us become better people and move forward.
"One needs to remember that there is always a silver lining that is waiting for you, and all you need to do is to push through the dark cloud so you can see the light. Take the setbacks as a boost to get to the next level of yourself as a being.”
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