Mbabane: Pitso Mosimane is a celebrated coach every footballer dreams of playing for.
Now with Mamelodi Sundowns, still raking trophies by a bucketfull, Mosimane helped nature Dennis ‘Yuki’ Masina as a young boy to be the man he is. Arriving in the flash and lights of South Africa’s capital Tshwane at just 20 years old, it was always going to be difficult for any young man to adapt.
But ‘Yuki’, Eswatini’s best talent in recent decades always had his eyes on the bigger picture; to make a name for himself and win trophies. After being recruited by the late Rueben ‘Skwaya’ Gwebu to join the ‘talent unearthing machine’ of Midas Mbabane City aged just 10 years, ‘Yuki’ never looked back.
He was a rare as-a-hen’s-tooth talent that surprisingly played with bigger boys at a tender age. At 10, he was already playing with Under 17s and at 14 he already had national U-17 and U-20 caps under his belt. When Umtata Bush Bucks came in 1999 to sign Siza ‘King Pele’ Dlamini immediately after Sihlangu COSAFA Castle Cup match against Mozambique, the South Africans spotted another talent they can take home with. That was ‘Yuki’.
On that fateful Sunday afternoon at just 17 years old, ‘Yuki’ tormented the Black Mambas- scoring with a chip over the goalkeeper Sihlangu’s third goal in a memorable 3-1 win at Somhlolo National Stadium. The late Tholeni ‘Schuster’ Nkambule had scored Eswatini’s opening two goals.
Bush Bucks signed him after that game and had to pack his bags and move to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. After just two seasons having won Bush Bucks Young Player of the Year award, Pitso came knocking for his signature. ‘Yuki’ recalls how Pitso made a trip to Eswatini just to meet his father and promised the old man, “I will personally take care of your boy”.
Playing as an attacking midfielder, Masina was flourishing and developing as a player- attracting interest from Netherlands’ giants Feyernood later on. In the past two decades, he is one of two Eswatini-born players to play for either of Soweto super clubs Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs alongside Sibusiso ‘Spoko’ Dlamini, one of his favourite teammates. Currently, he is assistant coach at Mbombela United as his football journey continues unabated.
It is little surprise, Masina comes from a family of football. His father Gift ‘Cracker’ Masina was also a great footballer playing for Mbabane Swallows, a team he grew up supporting. “Aged just nine, I joined Midas Mbabane City after I was recruited by Rueben ‘Skwaya’ Gwebu,” Yuki recalls. Gwebu was manager at the junior national squads and he used to take Masina there and received his national U-17s and U-20s call-ups.
“At that time I qualified to play for U14s but was already playing with the bigger boys. ‘Skwaya’ believed in me and was like a father.”
In 1998 the dimunitive playmaker joined Manzini Wanderers, with the influence of his best friend to date John ‘Shisa Junior’ Mdluli. At the ‘Weslians’ he played for just one season and in August 1999 he signed for Bush Bucks and played there for just two seasons.
“Pitso recruited me for Supersport alongside Thomas Madigage. I was happy to join Supersport because of their good structures,” Yuki adds. In 2004 Fayernood took him to Netherlands alongside four other South Africans. Masina, now a regular for both club and country was the only player told to stay behind after playing in a mini tournament and started playing for their reserve side while training with the first team over there.
In the Feyernood first team there were players like Robin van Persie and Dirk Kuyt. The Feyernood scout decided to take him to Belgium to play for Eendracht Aalst on loan and helped them survive relegation. “The following season, I was told another team Belgium want me on a season loan. That’s how I joined KV Machelen but had to return to Supersport in 2006. I think Stanley Mathews (Supersport CEO) did not agree a fee with them. I then joined Orlando Pirates in 2009,” Yuki continues.
At Pirates, he was loaned to Mpumalanga Black Aces alongside Bennedict ‘Tso’ Vilakazi, Joseph ‘Duku Duku’ Makhanya and David Mathebula from Chiefs the following season. That move was later made permanent and he played at Aces until 2016/17 season before stints with Matsapha United and Mbombela United. He describes his best friend ‘Shisa Junior’ Mdluli, ‘Spoko’ Dlamini and Bheki ‘Control’ Thwala as his best teammates ever. Masina feels Bheki ‘Control’ Thwala whom he shared the dressing room for a season at Wanderers was one player he feels never reached his full potential.
“I played with him (Control) at Wanderers and he was a good midfielder. I think he did not get the opportunities I got, Shisa or Spoko had to at least move abroad. He deserved a contract outside of Eswatini.” When he was at Supersport, destroying Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versveld in a game “Matsantsantsa’ won 3-0 remains his memorable game in an illustrious trophy-laden career. On the night, ‘Yuki’ scored the third goal.
It is no surprise that his first stint with Supersport is where he enjoyed his football the most. “It was great and we were playing CAF Champions League football.” Talking of Pitso Mosimane, ‘Yuki’ feels is one coach who contributed immensely in his career.
“He changed me as a person and made me a man. He was strict and truthful with his straight talk. He always advised that I am not in South Africa to buy fancy cars but rather to play football. He was a father figure.”