Dominique Scott

Running the Bafana Bafana Way


Running plays a large part in almost every sport practiced at a competitive level. We explore running’s role in soccer by chatting to South African soccer superstar, Bafana Bafana player Matthew Booth. – BY MICHELLE PIETERS

The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ is only days away and soccer fever is reaching an all time high across the world. The greatest show on Earth will take place on 11 June on African soil and soon soccer lovers will see their favourites trying to outplay each other to achieve the highest glory in football.

Soccer is not just about good ball handling skills and technique; body conditioning is one of the most important aspects distinguishing a good soccer player from an excellent one. Take into consideration that an average professional soccer player runs about 6-9km per match and you will understand that soccer players need to be super fit! Midfielders tend to cover a lot of ground during a match. Though strikers cover less ground, they work hard as their running on the field consists of short bursts of sprints.

If you want to be a professional soccer player there is no lazing around. Professional soccer players train every day. “If you miss a training session you will feel it the next day. That is why our pre-season training after our month-long holiday is so intense. While the players have recharged their batteries, they have in fact lost virtually 50-70% of their playing stamina,” says South African soccer defender, Matthew Booth.

The tall soccer star plays for Mamelodi Sundowns after signing from Krylia Sovetov Samara, where he was captain of the team. Matthew, who made his debut for South Africa in 1999, will be part of the Bafana Bafana team ready to tackle the best in the world in a couple of days! 

Soccer is in his genes. Paul, Matthew’s father, was a keen amateur footballer, and Matthew soon followed in his dad’s footsteps. He is drawn to football for a number of reasons. “The fact that soccer is a team sport and is played by players who come up against teams of varying skill, always creates a number of various outcomes. Also, the game combines a number of skills such as movement, coordination, tactical awareness and courage”.

Soccer training pre-season consists of training sessions twice a day.
The morning gym session includes:
• A general gym circuit workout that targets the whole body.
• A treadmill run of 10-12min (at a pulse rate of 150-170 with the treadmill set at varying gradients).
• A core session is done on six to eight stations in the aerobics hall.
• Each player repeats the entire circuit two or three times.
The afternoon session involves:
• Ball work, stamina and a bit of tactical work. This session can last from one to two hours.
• Afterwards, where possible, stretching is done in a pool. This session helps to lessen the effect of the inevitable lactic acid build up.

“I mostly do a bit of road running when I’m on holiday, just to keep me ticking over. In a month I will probably hit the road twice a week for a 3-4 km run. Most of our stamina running is done when we return to our clubs for pre-season training. The fitness gained from running helps to play a 90min plus game of football, where stamina is definitely needed!

He finds running on a treadmill very boring! “But out on the open road while on holiday in the Cape Peninsula is one of the best things one can do! You always feel good about yourself after a run.” Matthew has not done any running races, apart from when he was at school (400m/800m), but adds that he would love to test his endurance by competing in the Two Oceans or even Comrades. “I take my hat off to the athletes who regularly compete in these races.”

Matthew attributes his success to one thing: perseverance! He is very excited about the upcoming World Cup and has high hopes for South Africa. “I think we can progress to the knockout round, but once there, it really depends on who we meet. I am looking forward to proving all the doubting Thomas’s wrong… on and off the field.”

Matthew does not like losing. “Even from a young age I think this has always been a big factor in what drives me. I also live a pretty healthy lifestyle with few bad habits.” This has undoubtedly helped him become the sportsman he is today.

And when he is not on the soccer field, he enjoys playing golf and tennis, and of course watching virtually any kind of sport! “Watching the Comrades on TV was always a tradition in our family as well as going down to the main road in Fish Hoek (where I grew up) to watch the Two Oceans.”

Sport is and always will be a vital part of Matthew’s life. “I’m not sure what I would have been or how I would have turned out without it. It has provided me with my livelihood, so I owe it a lot.”

In future he would love to be involved in youth development in football and to continue working on his Booth Education and Sports Trust. But for now he is just concentrating on one thing: the long awaited Soccer World Cup! “I am 33 years old, so to play in my first World Cup at this stage of my career would be fantastic and I would be able to die with a smile on my face.”

Favourite food:     Pap, wors and chakalaka
Favourite holiday destination:   Maldives
Favourite footballer:    Lucas Radebe
Team you support:     Fish Hoek AFC
If I weren’t a soccer star I would have been:  A teacher
What does no one know about you?   I can’t keep a secret!
Wise words:
Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made of something deep inside them. A desire, a dream, a vision. – Muhammad Ali