Bloemfontein Celtic legend Willem Vries is a broken man in a desperate situation now that his football career has ended.
Vries joined the list of ex-soccer players that have been left with nothing to show after their football careers, only memories.
Besides battling with health challenges, the former Siwelele midfielder is also battling financially, which has forced him to work as a gardener at the Mangaung club.
Having made a record-breaking 306 starts for Celtic before he was overtaken by goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb, today Vries is a far cry from the man that sweat green and white blood and carried Phunya Sele Sele on his shoulders during trying times.
The 54-year-old former midfielder is now back home and sick after working on the grounds at Siwelele Park.
“I was working in the yard at Siwelele Park as a garden boy and I am now sick and they are just giving me a salary while I am sitting at home,” Vries tells Lovemore Moyo in the latest KICK OFF magazine.
Vries reveals that Celtic requested that he apply to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) now that he is sick and unable to work.
“The last time I worked there in October last year I was cutting trees and since then I started getting sick. Instead of getting an incentive, they now want to take me to SASSA .
“Why can’t they just give me something? Instead of a salary they now want me to get a SASSA card.
“Where I am sitting now, I am in pain. You are the only one who has bothered to check what is happening with me. I am having short breath and I cannot work in a yard anymore, and now I must go to SASSA.”
Vries never earned telephone numbers during his career and his biggest signing-on fee was R30 000, with a R2 500 per month salary during Ntate Petrus Molemela’s days, before he sold the club to Jimmy Augusto.
“Then when Jimmy came towards the end of my playing career, I got R4 500. What is more painful for me is that I have nothing to show from the money that I got playing football,” Vries laments.
“If I wanted something, I had to go and lay-bye. I cannot even watch television right now because I cannot afford it. I don’t have a television because I cannot buy one for cash.
“If you come to my place you will cry, because there is nothing to show that I was once a professional player.”