If former professional footballer Nasief Morris came looking to uncover the next rough diamond in his old stomping ground, he came to the right place.
Once upon a time himself a pikkie with big dreams, Morris, 42, was at Westridge High yesterday for the launch of his N5 Sports Trust soccer development project.
The programme includes erecting state-of-the-art artificial courts which, he says, if everything goes according to plan, should be up and running by April or May next year on the completion of the courts.
Growing up in Beacon Valley, the young Morris, like many others, saw himself as a professional soccer player from an early age, picturing himself playing ball with the best of the best, just like his heroes did on television.
Known as a tough, no-nonsense central defender, he actually started out in goal, says Beacon Spurs founder-member Steven Smith, who remembers Morris as a quiet but hard-working player during his early days at the club before going on to make his mark at Santos and later at various international clubs, including Greek sides Aris Thessaloniki FC and Panathinaikos FC, for whom he made his UEFA Champions League debut on October 2003, helping his team win the double in the 2003–04 campaign.
He made 14 Champions League and 18 UEFA Cup appearances during his five-year tenure with the Greek giants and cemented his spot on the national team.
He also spent time in the Spanish top flight with Recreativo de Huelva, Racing de Santander and Cantabrians before returning home in 2010 to join SuperSport United.
“I wish him all the best. It’s long overdue and I hope he has the right people around him to make it a success,”said Smith, fondly recalling how former club member Mervyn Nates, through his connections with Santos FC, helped arrange a coaching clinic at Morris’ alma mater, Princeton High, where the then youngster was spotted and subsequently snapped up by Santos and included in a tour to England.
“Nasief, then aged 14, was our senior team goalkeeper,” said Smith. “In fact, he complained that our defence was weak and decided he was going to play as a defender. That’s how he became a central defender,” Smith said.
The rest, as they say, is history, said Smith, recalling a TV interview during which he said Morris announced to the world that he was proud to be from Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain.
After a 20-year career playing professionally before hanging up his boots, Morris turned his attention to coaching. Over the past seven years he’s had spells with Ikapa Sporting in the ABC Motsepe League, Magic FC, Steenberg and Cape Town Spurs in the NFD and a few months with Spurs in the DStv premiership.
Now back in his old neighbourhood, this time, as he puts it, “to give back to Mitchell’s Plain, because I am from Mitchell’s Plain.”
“I’ve always wanted to give back and also know how much talent Mitchell’s Plain has and because I come from there,” he said.
He said he’s roped in some former professionals, most of whom are also from Mitchell’s Plain to lend their support to the project. Among these he said are Moeneeb Josephs, Robyn Johannes, Ashraf Hendricks, Ricardo Katza, Brandon Truter who will serve as ambassadors for the project.
“For starters, he said, ”we will try to do the free clinics on a monthly basis depending on the sponsorships and available funds. If we can do it more than once a month, we will.”
Westridge High principal Edgar Magaar said he looks forward to a long, lasting, healthy and beneficial relationship with Morris and the N5 Sports Trust.
He said the project could not have arrived at a better time because the school’s fields have been lying dormant for quite a number of years. “This was partly because we did not have a school fence, then it was water restrictions throughout the Western Cape because of the drought and then it was Covid-19 when we could not use the sports field. So, the sportsfield became more and more deteriorated,” he said.
“But then we were approached by Nasief Morris. We had some negotiations that’s been coming on for a while now. He and the N5 Sports Trust will be setting up this soccer development at our school, starting with the 5-a-side soccer fields,“ Mr Magaar said.
“We believe our learners must develop, not just academically and not even in sports only, but holistically.
“If all goes well, we will be able to inculcate into our learners a good mastery of the different sports. So we’re very excited,” he said.