Cape Town - Kaizer Chiefs defender Happy Mashiane says he never gave up on his dream of playing at the highest level.
Tembisa-born Mashiane saw his hopes almost go up in smoke when the Brazilians moved their academy from Chloorkop to Pretoria and after being handed a lifeline by Chiefs, the 21-year-old was struck down with a toe injury that kept him sidelined for several months.
But Mashiane made his return off the bench in last month's 1-0 victory over Baroka and is delighted to be back in the mix.
"It feels good to be back. I hope to continue where I left off last season. People expect a lot from me, so I do not want to disappoint," Mashiane told KickOff.
"I started playing football when I was very young, playing for an amateur club called Tembisa Black Pirates in Tembisa.
After that, I went to the Sundowns academy, but I stopped when they relocated from Chloorkop to Pretoria.
"I was very young to travel from Tembisa to Pretoria alone, so I left the academy. At that time I felt like the dream of playing professionally was dying. gradually, but I kept on believing.
"I never dropped my head and I think that's why I am at Chiefs today.
"I am still the same Happy I was when I was still playing in the MDC (the reserve league). I am a focused boy, who listens to his parents (Mable and Emmanuel Mashiane).
"My mother always tells me to be mindful of fame. She has made me understand that I am a role model now, meaning I must be disciplined on and off the field."
Meanwhile, Amakhosi are back in action this weekend against Cape Town City in a Telkom Knockout Last 16 encounter.
Kick-off is at 15:00 on Saturday.