Tercious Malepe‚ the youngest player for South Africa at the men’s Olympic football tournament‚ believe he will turn out for Orlando Pirates in the coming season.
The 19-year-old reportedly penned a new three-year deal with Pirates – having spent last season on loan at Moroka Swallows in the National First Division – in July‚ before travelling to Brazil to represent the SA Under-23s at the Olympics.
Malepe played in the final game of group stages‚ a 1-1 draw against Iraq that was not enough to see South Africa progress‚ having replaced injured Mulomowandau Mathoho.
On his return to Johannesburg the young centreback said he has not had official word on whether he will join Bucs’ first-team squad for 2016-17 or be loaned out again.
“Not yet‚ but I think and believe I will be part of the team. And I am very capable of playing‚” the confident youngster said.
“It’s been two months now – I’ve been with the Under-20s‚ then the U-23s since the Cosafa Cup. I haven’t been home all that time.
“So it was difficult for me. I did not get enough information about my career going forward.
“So I believe I will hear good news when I get back to Pirates.
“I have seen the 30 players selected for the 2016-17 season and I was part of that team.
“But the fact is I would really like to show up in the field [starting XI].
“The chances are there. As long as I work hard I can be able to play.”
Malepe said he grew form the experience of rubbing shoulders with world stars and playing on a global stage at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“I’m very happy about it. It was a great experience‚” he said.
“It wasn’t easy for me – I was the youngster and I came in in the last game where we needed a win after Mathoho’s injury.
“And coach Owen [Da Gama] thanked me a lot‚ and did say that I did a good job.
“I do feel that my career is going places‚ and I’m looking forward to working harder in the future.
“It was a dream come true because I was the youngest player there [for SA]. It was an honour for me.
“I believe I have learned a lot. “Meeting Neymar was one of my wishes‚ and I did that. I shook his hand after the Brazil game‚ where I was on the bench.
“So I’m really growing in football. No-one can take the experience I had at Rio 2016 away from me.”
Malepe’s SA U-20 coach Thabo Senong – assistant to Da Gama for the U-23s – was instrumental in Malepe receiving a call-up to the Olympic squad that won the Cosafa Cup in Windhoek in June. Malepe played two games in Namibia and earned a call-up for Rio.
“Thabo played a huge role in me coming through to the Olympics and I thank him so much‚” Malepe said.
“He had belief in me. I’m learning a lot from him.”