Sihle Gum from Lesseyton is on his way back home to National First Division (NFD) side Free State Stars after a year at relegated Witbank Spurs.
The 20-year-old defender will be taking his NFD experience to Stars after being loaned to Spurs for one season. Stars signed Gum in 2016 after identifying his talents while playing for local Amavarara.
Stars loaned him to Spurs after playing him in the Multichoice Diski Challenge in 2017, a tournament for U18s.
Gum said he was excited to be going to Bethlehem after a year in Mpumalanga campaigning for Spurs. “I am excited to play for the team. They told me early that they had a lot of senior players in the team and were looking to the future. The loan was for me to get as much competitive football experience as possible.”
He said the experience of playing for Spurs was challenging but invaluable. “Playing in the NFD is more difficult than playing in the PSL. There is no time to relax. Even at training I’ve had to work really hard. You have to keep competing for your spot.”
His love for football goes back to primary school in 2007 and he says hard work, perseverance and support from his family played a huge part in helping get him to where he is in his career. “My parents have always encouraged me to stay in school in case football does not work out, but have always supported my career. I still want to further my education, which is something that we are still discussing with team management.
“Amavarara kept us motivated in football. They went to great lengths to support us as players.”
Themba Sithole, Free State Stars coach said: “We are preparing for the new season in the NFD and Gum is one of the key players we will be looking at. He will be bringing the experience he gained in the division. It is a new chapter for the team.”
Gum’s agent, Brian Funda, said he was a hard worker and had taken the opportunity he had playing for Spurs. “Other PSL teams like Baroka FC and Highlands Park have taken notice of Gum. However, we are fully committed to the project at Free State Stars at the moment. They took a chance on him when he was still an unknown quantity. I do not think he will spend more than a season in the NFD regardless of what happens.
“At the moment (Gum) must work hard for his team and we will help it get back to its position in the PSL.” Gum is leaving for Bethlehem on Wednesday, the second player of the Chris Hani region to play for Stars after the late Sinethemba Jantjie from Oxton Village near Whittlesea.