Bantam puts his weight behind Jamestown United

Impressive... James Town United coach Marawaan Bantam

Picture: Lonwabo Marele

The former Steenberg United, Bidvest Wits, Black Aces and Santos talisman, said Jamestown United’s good form continues as they top the Athlone Local Football Association (LFA) log, following a 2-1 win against SSS Academy on Saturday.

“We’re doing very well. The excitement is creeping in now already.”

He said they could not wait for the next game against Trinitarians.

Bantam said coaching was never a part of his plans, however, his father-in-law, Allen Barnes, a co-founder of the team, insisted that he would be the perfect coach for Jamestown United’s senior team.

“I didn’t even want to coach, I’m working and I have two boys looking up to me,” he said.

Bantam, whose career took off in 2002/2003 for the People’s Team, Santos, in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), said growing up in a crime stricken area is difficult for any youngster, however, having the right mentor or person to look up to can make a difference.

“I’m from Bonteheuwel. I started playing soccer at the age of 9 for Bluegum Wizards. That time Michael Clansman of Cape Town Spurs was playing. I used to look up to him and others such as Duncan Crowie, Kaizer Chiefs and Doctor Khumalo. We didn’t have a TV at home, so I would go and watch the senior games and imagine playing there.

“I played there until the age of 12, and then I went to Sporting United. I was 17 when I played my first senior match before I moved to Saxon Rovers in the National First Division (NFD). I then played one season for Avondale Athletic before I signed for Santos at the age of 26.

“I enjoyed myself at Santos, I didn’t care about the money as long as I just followed my dream. It was my hunger to play football,” he said.

Known for his deadly exponent of free-kicks in the PSL, Bantam said his kicking skills were a result of sacrificing every Sunday to practice with former Hellenic midfielder, Adriano Zurini at Greenpoint.

“I was still playing for Saxon Rovers at the age of 21 when I met this Italian guy by the surname of Zurini. He was the agent of Simba Marumo, who played for (Mamelodi) Sundowns. Every Sunday I would meet him at Greenpoint to practice taking free-kicks.

“He wanted to take me overseas, but unfortunately I had already signed for Santos, and I wanted to play in the PSL,” he said.

Bantam praised his parents for the support they have shown throughout his footballing career.

“After school, with a few years of not participating in football because of a distraction with friends, my father sat me down and he said I should stop this nonsense. After that, I never stopped playing football.

“All of this would not have been possible without my parents. They stood with me from the age of 10 until I retired. They still come out on weekends and support me during my coaching at Jamestown United,” he said.

Live member at Jamestown United, Allen Barnes acknowledged Bantam as a figure that has boosted the team’s morale.

Barnes said the team has been in existence for more than 75 years, winning numerous trophies, but when the older guys had to leave the team this year, Bantam was exponential in introducing a group of hungry youngsters.

“It’s mostly our youngsters that have played with us since under-10. One year came where we couldn’t keep up with the older guys that were leaving, Marawaan brought in professionalism to the club, he is the one who motivates them.

“We are going to take it one step at a time. Whatever happens, will happen,” he said.

Barnes said they have no ambitions of playing in the National First Division anytime soon.

“We were in the second division, Vodacom, but than you must have money. We just like to keep our youngsters off the streets, which is why we have teams from under-8 and under-10. We are slowly but surely reaping the benefits now as you can see in the LFA,” said Barnes.