One of Cape Town’s most well-known defenders from years gone by in the professional ranks is Paulo das Neves, who starred for most of the Mother City’s famous clubs.
You and your brothers, Mario and Carlos, have always had a deep connection with Vasco da Gama. Tell us about it…
We joined Vasco from Edgemead at a young age. We started with the Under-19s and since then we have always been looking out for each other even when we left to go play elsewhere.
Vasco was always in our roots. When we finished playing professionally we got involved with the club again and bought shares at Vasco.
What was it like playing with your brothers at the likes of Hellenic and Cape Town Spurs?
It was great and always enjoyable. It was just as much fun as when we moved [our separate ways] to go play at other teams.
It was always a challenge and interesting. We played in a cup final together, which we lost, but I enjoyed it more coming up against my brothers. You can imagine the banter that went down in the house before a game!
Your nickname was ‘Pops’, how did that come about?
I don’t know to be honest. It is something that stuck around since I was five-years-old. My eldest brother one day called me Pops. Carlos became ‘Cops’ and Mario ‘Mops’. We used to walk around being called Mops, Pops and Cops.
How do you feel about being involved in such a community based club?
It is great. We decided to keep our connection going with Vasco and it has always been involved in the community and it has a long standing association as a Portuguese club.
I am Portuguese and I wanted to stick close to my roots so I got involved in it. We still have high hopes for the club, we hope for a PSL spot again. It is exciting and interesting.
You were a defender in your day, who was the toughest opponent you came up against?
I never had any [laughs]. Look, all of them were tough in their own right. I enjoyed my football and it was all about being able to read them. If I had to choose it would be Phil Masinga – it is never easy coming up against a 6ft striker.
How was it playing in the Budgie Byrne era at Hellenic? What did it do for your career?
Budgie was a character. He was good at what he did. He was the guy who told me, when I wanted to play as a striker, to stick to my guns and play as a defender. He was an amazing man. I respect him and he always pointed me in the right direction.
What are your thoughts on Cape Town developing the better players but the emphasis, when it comes to Bafana Bafana, still falling on Jo’burg-based players?
It is simple, the majority of the league and the teams are based in Johannesburg and people pay more attention there.
In Cape Town there is a lot of unfounded talent. We need to start more academies here because sometimes the players don’t get the opportunities they need.
Why do you think Cape Town professional football is struggling?
All players want to go to big clubs where there is money in Johannesburg. It is easy for a club to produce players and sell them.
On the one hand it is not bad because it can bring in remuneration but one has to weigh up the options. It will always be like that.
Sometimes a player does well for a season or two, gets transferred to a big club, and then doesn’t perform. It is difficult for small clubs to keep a hold of its better players.