Jabuview with Clinton Panther

We got All Things Jabu regular Bianca Brower to interview one of SA’s Men’s Hockey Teams best, Clinton Panther.

Towards the end of 2011 I started working the senior South African Men’s Hockey Team.  From the word go, one of the nicest guys has always been Clinton Panther.  It’s such a treat to be able to interview you for All Things Jabu!

B (All Things Jabu’s Bianca): For anyone who has been to the UK, when there is any mention of a ‘Chav’, not too many people will have happy connotations to those types of people. To some of your team mates, you are better known as Chav. Personally I think you’re a decent guy. So how on earth did you get such a less-than-flattering nickname like that?

CP (Clinton Panther): I believe it’s because I lived on the West Rand when I first moved to Johannesburg, this somehow made me a dangerous person. I never get intimidated on the field and I have a “no fear” policy, meaning “never pull out of a tackle.” The team believes my ‘chavness’ protects them (kind of a body guard, they say), but I am also trying to wrap my head around this all. =D

Clinton against Japan in a warm up match at the WHL semi finals
Clinton against Japan in a warm up match at the WHL semi finals

B: Bit of an odd compliment but amusing non-the less! =) So it’s official, at the ripe old age of 22 you are now too old to be classified as a Junior and obviously can no longer play for the SA U21 side. You did, however, spend a fair amount of time with this side.  How many years did you play for the SA U21 team?

CP: I played Gauteng U21 from the age of 15. I was, however, only with the National U21 side for a two year period as there weren’t any major tournaments before then. The funny thing is though, I made the National Men’s team before I made the National U21 team. This might have been due to the lack of major tournaments in the years prior to when I was called up.

B: On the U21 note, a massive congratulations on being named the 2012 SAU21 Player of the Year!  What an honor.

CP: Thanks so much. I am really pleased with this achievement and being given the recognition is extremely humbling.

Clinton at last years Junior African Cup of Nations
Clinton at last years Junior African Cup of Nations

B: To my sheer amazement, I suppose I accidentally informed you about the above award.  You didn’t seem totally convinced at first?

CP: I have to admit, I was blown away at first, as I had not seen anything published by SA hockey.  Although this has been one of my individual goals, it is inspiring to know that the SA selectors and my team have faith in me.

B: Do you have any idea how the selection of Player of the Year works?

CP: The players of the year is selected by the team members. Each player votes for the person they feel has been the most worthy player within the team. The final decision is unanimous.

Clinton at last years Junior AFCON
Clinton at last years Junior AFCON

B: Wow, that really is something special to be thought of so highly by your peers. Now, I stand to be corrected, but you are one of the youngest South African Men’s hockey players to have got 50 caps for the senior side.   Who did you play and did you feel any differently about that game than you would any other?

CP: I won my 50th cap against Malaysia, in Malaysia, competing in the World League Round 3. It was an amazing occasion as their crowd was out in full force cheering their team on. It felt as exhilarating as any other International game, singing the National Anthem with your team mates before running onto the field. The importance of the game over-rides the number of caps.

B: And recently, your brother Brandon was also brought up into the senior set up. Have you guys been able to don the green and gold together yet?

CP: Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to play in the green and gold together yet. I am most certainly looking forward to it. It has been our dream from a young age to represent our country as the “Panther” brothers.

Clinton and his brother Brandon

Clinton and his brother Brandon

B: Shame, that’s a bit sad.  I’m sure it will be an incredible moment when that dream is realized. Do you spend quite a bit of time away from home travelling for hockey?

CP: The time spent away from home varies from year to year, depending on the number of major tournaments with the National team, as well as whether I play for clubs overseas. If I spend a season overseas, it will be a minimum of 6 months away from home, without taking into account tours with the National team.

B: How do you cope with studies, friends, family, and your girlfriend being away from home so often?

CP: It is extremely tough juggling my studies, as well as playing professional hockey, as my degree (Bcom Finance) is quite demanding, and requires hard work and dedication. Good time management is imperative.  I believe in giving my full focus to whatever I am busy with at that moment, whether it be studying or spending time with family, friends and of course my girlfriend. It is the quality of time you spend together that is important. They fully support me as working towards reaching my goals, is what makes me who I am.

B: You’re very lucky to have such an amazing support system! Ok, so straight back to hockey…You’ve also just been named in the team that will be competing at the African Cup of Nations in Kenya from the 26th of September. Congrats! It’s quite a different team from the view-point that there are guys that have come out of retirement and competed at 2 Olympic Games ( Geoff Abbot & Andrew Cronje) and on the other hand, guys that are making their senior debuts (Mohamed Mea and Dylan Swanepoel).  What do you think about the team and the potential of this team in specific?

CP: Thanks again. Having older, more experienced guys in the team brings stability and wisdom. The younger guys bring new excitement and flare into the side.  All the lads selected for the upcoming tour gel really well and the individual talent within the side is really positive.

B: In order to qualify for the World Cup in Holland next year, the only option for the SA Men is quite simply to win the AFCON. Is that right? What do you think the Lads chances are of taking the 2013 AFCON title?

CP: Yes that’s correct. If each player plays with focus and determination the Lads should bring home the gold.

B: This is a massive tournament for the team.  You will no doubt play an incredibly important role in the teams (hopeful) success. Is there any sort of opportunity for the team as a whole to prepare?

CP: We will be attending a camp in Johannesburg, the week prior to leaving for Kenya. We will have two days in Kenya to acclimatize and to practice on their astro turf.  I am sure a practice game will be organized against one of the other teams competing in the tournament, or inter squad games will be played in order to get us back to the required international level.

B: How do you personally prepare for a tournament of this nature – mentally and physically?

CP: I follow my normal training schedule of 1,5hrs of gym per day to keep me physically fit for the game and a 30-45min turf session where I practice my drills and my skills. Mentally, I play videos in my own mind of situations I am faced with during games, so that when these happen in real matches, I am prepared with a counter attack.

B: I struggle to walk to the car and back never mind over 2 hours of training a day… eeeek!  That’s impressive though (the part about your training not me walking to the car!)  (both of us have a little chuckle) A lot of people in the hockey community and in the sporting know, are saying that you’re the next big thing in SA Men’s Hockey.  How do you feel about pretty powerful statements like that?

CP: It fills me with pride and in trepidation. Pride in achieving my goals, but fearful of living up to the expectation that others have of me. My parents have always taught me, that to be the best player on the field, I need to raise the game, of at least one other player on the field. I as an individual am not important, but the difference I make in the game, is important. The support from the spectators, however, also encourages me to continue working hard and to strive for the best possible outcome in every situation I am faced with.

Clinton on the run vs Malaysia
Clinton on the run vs Malaysia

B: Who do you think are your biggest supporters?

CP: My biggest supporters are those closest to me and then my 750 twitter followers.  I am most grateful to my sponsors who support me on a daily basis.

B: You’re quite ‘vocal’ on twitter.  You often have GAD at the end of you tweets.  What does GAD stand for?

CP: “G.A.D” is a motto that my dad introduced when we were young. It stands for “Guts,”“Attitude” and “Determination.” The guts to play the game, the right attitude on the field and the determination to make a difference in the game, no matter whether we win or lose. My brother and I both write it on our sticks. It helps to keep these values fresh in our mind, to perform at our peak and to give our best at all times.

B: (Trying to muffle the sound of my heart melting and the chorus of ‘aaaaah’ in my head) Sho, that’s really poignant and quite special actually!  Lovely touch. I think I speak for a lot of hockey fans, when I say I sincerely hope that you will be part of the SA Men’s set up for very many more years to come… please don’t go away!

CP: (Little chuckle) Thanks so much, I intend having a long and hopefully, successful hockey career. As an individual, and as a national team, we are working at achieving our short-term goal of being ranked in the top 10 of the world. We are 11th at the moment, so extremely close. Watch the space, because we have the ability and the will to achieve these goals and with the support from the public, it will happen.

B: Any shout outs?

CP: Yea, to all my supporters.  Thanks for the confidence you have in me. You help me to drive myself even harder.

B: First thing that comes to mind/ complete the sentence:

B: If you woke up tomorrow and you could be a professional athlete in any sporting code, what would it be and why?

CP: Tennis, as I would love to be the centre of attraction at Wimbledon.  It certainly would be more rewarding financially.

B: Never have I ever…

CP: Turned down a challenge

B: I love it when…

CP: I come home from tours to a peaceful family braai.

B: A day without … is a waste.

CP: Gym Training

B: I’m terrible at…

CP: Lying, my face gives me away, so I have been told.

B: Olympics…

CP: Most amazing experience of my life, definitely one I would like to repeat in the future

B: The best part about all the travelling is…

CP: Spending time with the SA Hockey Lads and being able to experience so much of the rest of the world.

B: Best & worst roommates …

CP: I’m a team player, so am happy to share with anyone.

B: Ah how diplomatically put. =) Thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule and studies to have done the interview.  Tons of luck to you and the Lads as you head off to Kenya in a few days’ time and safe travels.

You can follow Clinton on twitter here.

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