One of the most influential figures in the local game bowed out at the weekend after a stellar career and on Monday night‚ just ahead of Cape Town City’s annual awards‚ held a valedictory discourse on his career and the state of football in SA.

It was Teko Modise’s first discussion since last Friday’s sudden announcement of his intention to retire and it was emotive for the former Bafana Bafana‚ Mamelodi Sundowns‚ Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United midfielder to express his thoughts.

“I was not expecting what Black Leopards did and they had no obligation to do that‚ as they were fighting for their lives and we were actually looking to relegate them‚ so for them to give me a guard of honour was very emotional‚” he said of the scenes before his last game in City colours on Saturday at Thohoyandou Stadium.

“Over the weekend‚ I‘ve really understood how much I am actually loved in South African football. I got a lot of messages and I’m very grateful.”

Asked who he earmarked as the next influential and exciting talent in the country‚ Modise had no hesitation in pointing to Sundowns midfielder Themba Zwane.

“Zwane does not get the praise he deserves because many do not realise what he is actually doing in Africa‚ in the league and with the national team‚” he said. “No other player is contributing the way he is.

“Maybe it is because he doesn’t step on the ball‚ or juggle the ball‚ that people don’t appreciate him as much, but I think he is the best player I’ve seen in SA after Doctor Khumalo. He knows how to play. He’s my footballer of the year and he’s the next big thing.”

But Zwane will have to be even better if he is to help Sundowns win a third successive league title in 2020 because Modise believes it will Cape Town City’s turn.

“We should win next season‚” he said. “We realise there were two or three games we lost or drew this season that we could have won. Had we done so we would have won the league easily. We have an opportunity to step up next season‚ we cannot be happy with number two or three.”

Modise said he was aware he could still play for one or two more seasons in the Premier Soccer League, but was “tired of the pains I feel after the games” and “getting up and going back again”.

“Retirement was always going to come, so I had to be realistic about that‚” he said.