Charlie Tsotetsi: The Rising Star Who Shined Bright but Faded After Training with Barcelona and Manchester United

Discover the story of Charlie Tsotetsi, the South African football prodigy who trained with Barcelona and Manchester United but saw his career cut short. Learn about his early promise, challenges with agents, and struggles with mental health and injuries, as well as his current role in mentoring future stars.

Clifton Mabasa
Clifton Mabasa

Last Updated: 2024-05-29

Louis Hobbs

7 minutes read

Charlie Tsotetsi

Who is Charlie Tsotetsi? 

Undoubtedly, had Charlie Tsotetsi eventually succeeded in his football career after joining England's unique world talent search, “Nike the Chance” at the age of 18, we would be calling him one of the best players to have ever graced the nation.

It was a joyful moment for the South African folks and seemed like a dream to come true for Tsotetsi when the lad traveled the world in 2012 to kick-start his then-promising soccer career. 

Tsotetsi's rise to fame came when he was selected by “Nike the Chance” to be one of the 100 players from different countries who went to Spain to spend some time with FC Barcelona academy.

The young man's impression in those couple of days at La Masia's turf had immediately made the little boy born and raised in Ratanda, Heidelberg, in Gauteng, a hero of a promising star the country was going to witness in the future.

“It felt like a dream to come true. I was very fortunate to get a chance to travel to Europe at the age of 18, having trained with academies of Barcelona, Juventus, and Manchester United amongst others, was a massive privilege,” Tsotetsi exclusively told 

“Computer”, as Tsotetsi was affectionately known during his playing days, was amongst the top 16 players who went ahead to spend a year in England, playing against different academies.

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I went to England to continue with the Nike Academy program in Loughborough for a year. The plan was to start in Europe and remain there until I returned to finish my career here at home, but it didn't go my way.

Charlie Tsotetsi

Image Credits: Computer Tsotetsi

Image Credits: Computer Tsotetsi

What Made Potential Deals to Join Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns Collapse

Though it was not his intention to immediately return home, Tsotetsi's tour in Europe was cut short, leaving him to venture a new path in his football career.

His career was subjected to football agents, these are people who are recognised for attending to players' every requirement and, naturally, securing improved team placements and more lucrative contracts for their clients. 

The then-young star was in touch with the international agency, Pro Sport Agency led by the former Orlando Pirates coach Mike Makaab.

“Although I wanted to start in Europe and finish in SA, I had a chance to join Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns. But, because of bad influence that time, I missed a chance to sign with one of the two,”  he said, sounding regrettable.

“After my time at the “Nike the Chance” programme, Mike Makaab of Pro Sport advised me to start my career here in South Africa. I had a good relationship with Pro Sport Agency and Mike Makaab, though I had never met him in person,'' he revealed.

“Pro Sport advised me to come back home, to start either at Chiefs, AmaZulu, or Bidvest Wits before I could go back to Europe because they knew what they wanted for me as a player.

“But, because of the bad influence, I opted to terminate my contract with Pro Sport based on what other agents promised me. They said they had better offers and I would go to play in Holland, France, or Turkey, but that never happened.

“I regret terminating my contract with Makaab. I terminated my contract with him because of bad influence from other people, the so-called agents, who claimed they had better offers for me.”

Witchcraft? The Mental Breakdown Moment

Things went from better to worse for Tsotetsi. This is where he also thought it was over for him. However, his faith kept him going. 

“My career was cut short at the age of 23 because of injuries and being mentally sick, it's eight years now, and I am turning 30,” he revealed.

“I got mentally sick for about a year. I was mentally disturbed, and everyone thought it was over. Luckily, I had a good support system from my father and other family loved ones who quickly attended me.

“The doctors said I also had a heart condition, which they later said I was fine. Now, I'm 100%, no heart conditions anymore. I am fully fit.

''The God intervened and saved me from that spell. Some people were saying it was witchcraft and bad spirits that attacked me to close my destiny."

Trying times in African Countries

Football was the only sporting code he was committed to; he didn't give up on his career despite facing mental illness issues.

Despite his parents' disapproval of him going back to play, to him, it was undebatable, Tsotetsi went for his passion for playing football again.

This time around, following a year of grappling with a severe illness, the next destination of trying was Africa. He went to FC Saint-Eloi Lupopo in Congo and played at least one season.

Perhaps, in response to his father's desire for him to quit football, it seemed like God had heard the plea as injuries resurfaced again, compelling him to return home after a six-month stint in Gabon with CF Mounana.

Charlie Tsotetsi (2)

Charlie Tsotetsi (2)

Rejections by South African Premier Soccer League Teams 

Tsotetsi believed that joining his country's teams in the DStv Premiership would have provided the opportunity to revive his talent. However, things didn't go his way as teams turned against him.

“I tried to speak with other teams for trial or assessment, and unfortunately, most teams refused to take a look at me," said the disappointed Tsotetsi.

“I tried at Bidvest Wits, Free State Stars, Chippa United, and Golden Arrows. They all promised to assess me, but eventually, all of them said they were covered in my position, despite me being a versatile player.

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That's where I think there were people who tried to jeopardise my career and the plans to play in South Africa. And that is how my career ended, unfortunately.

Charlie Tsotetsi

Mofokeng and co-young players can play in Europe 

The likes of Orlando Pirates' youngest star Relebohile Mofokeng, Devin Titus of Stellenbosch FC, Mduduzi Tshabalala, and many young players have been doing well this season. 

Tsotetsi believes these aforementioned players could make it in Europe considering their talents and will help the national team shortly. 

Moreover, Rele, as Mofokeng is known and Titus, have been included in the Hugo Broos' preliminary squad ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Zimbabwe in June. 

"I must say a lot of South African talents can play everywhere in the globe. We have amazing talent in this country. Well even far better than other African countries," declares Tsotetsi. 

"Of course, these lads can make it abroad. The players you are speaking about are the future Bafana Bafana stars. The future is bright."

Talent Alone is Not Enough 

But the erstwhile versatile star made it clear that the pressure of playing abroad is something not to be taken lightly. 

"Talent alone is not enough in football. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken care of," warns the former footballer who has seen it all in Europe. 

"Discipline, coachability, hard work, trusting the process, and obviously to have a strong desire and mentality for playing the game are amongst things the players should have. 

"The environment in Europe is not the same as here at home. Here you play one or two good games you think you have arrived at. In Europe it's about consistency, without that you won't make it or even last that side," he added. 

"Am glad a team like Sundowns has adopted the European mentality. Competition is tough and consistency is required from everyone at Sundowns. 

"Who praises players? Everyone is right, especially if you do well, it's the media, fans, and everyone who adores and likes you. In the football fraternity, you will get praised if you do well. 

"Those boys in Europe are being praised and for them, it's globally not only locally. But it's how they were coached, molded, and grown. 

"They do not let a few great performances get into their heads because their team associations do not allow players to rest on their laurels. That boils down to the mentality of a player," concluded the retired player. 

Without any doubt, had Tsotetsi made it and become a superstar, his relevance would have become more important than many would have ever imagined.

The 30-year-old former player is now transitioning his knowledge as a footballer to coaching. He is volunteering as a coach at GS College and Paris FC in his hometown.

Clifton Mabasa
Clifton MabasaClifton Mabasa

A natural sersitile soccer player who had a dream of turning out for Kaizer Chiefs, but ended up being a sports journalist. I fell in love with writing about football during my university studies in 2018.