He is still regarded as Bafana Bafana’s best ever left fullback. David Nyathi starred for Cape Town Spurs, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs but also played at Vasco da Gama.
David, how did you first join Vasco da Gama?
At the time Vasco was a part of Cape Town Spurs. They were using the same facilities and we both trained there. I joined them as a fully fledged professional after moving from Orlando Pirates.
How would you describe your time there?
I would say it was the best period of my playing career. We (Spurs) won the double (League and Cup) and we almost won the league two years in a row if it wasn’t for a last minute decision that went Pirates’ way.
They had fantastic staff, bosses and players. We all had dreams.
We had players like Craig Rosslee, Shaun Bartlett and Andre Arendse who were all big dreamers and became big names. I really enjoyed my time there.
You have coached the youth at Ajax Cape Town, a club that has a link with Vasco who take some Ajax players on loan. How crucial is this for a club like Vasco?
The relationship between Ajax and Vasco is wonderful in many ways. When you look at Ajax, we have a very big focus in the production of players. The intention is to get the players to grow and gain experience. So we send them off to play in the First Division, be it with Vasco or elsewhere around the country.
What difference have you seen in the players that come back from Vasco to go on and play for Ajax in the top flight?
They are matured. It is very important that in the latter stages of a career players can’t be developed any more, but they need experience. We see at Vasco that they have a good training structure and playing style. They are demanding on the development aspect of the game.
You can look at the likes of Cole Alexander. He was fantastic at Vasco – not only in the NFD season but in the PSL too. He has grown tremendously and it is very commendable on their part.
You spent years overseas. How would you sum up your time across Europe, playing in Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Italy?
Europe is a different world with a different mindset, the systems are different. When I went there I saw I had to play at the highest level, have tactical awareness and insight into a higher thinking. The character of a player pushes them beyond the capable standard.
In Europe you need to be a winner. Europe demands champions. You have to play and lose like a champion. We need our players to play like champions, live like champions and train like champions – that is what is important.
You were hailed as the ‘new Roberto Carlos’ when arriving in Italy. How did you set yourself above the rest in SA?
I loved football. I enjoyed it and that was the most important thing. I loved to win and to work hard. To be the best you have to have a nature of competitiveness. I knew that.
If you get paid to get results you can’t go unprepared. I knew that to play at the highest I had to have the highest level of fitness, standard and character in the game.
You made history when you played for Bafana Bafana in their first ever World Cup. How much of an honour is that for you?
It was huge. To be the best you have to realize the highest challenge in life and possibilities. You have to show yourself. If you have been beaten in football then you weren’t above the champions.
For a player you can imagine, it makes you stronger as a person and a competitor. It was very important as I wanted to see myself reach that. This country needs to see how we were.
Any last thoughts on Vasco?
Vasco is a good club with a good structure and facilities. It is not easy to go up and maintain that. They have to look at how to consolidate a promotion and maintain it. They must release what they dream to do and achieve it.
Ideally they need to realize and make it happen.