Gone are the days where a goalkeeper’s remittance extends only to shot-stopping, with a new wave of gloved crusaders reinventing the position of late.
Imposing in figure with impeccable technique, Majak Mawith is plying his trade in one of the nation’s finest footballing aristocracies as the youth goalkeeper for Melbourne City.
Sturdier than the Berlin Wall and polished in all areas of play, Mawith fits like a glove into the City settlement.
The Youth Academy scouts caught up with Mawith to talk about his exploits as the last line of defence.
Class of ’19
Having earned his stripes in Melbourne’s metropolis, Mawith is a part of an elite group of Goulburn Valley guns to don the famous City blue. A member of one of Australia’s most prestigious academies, the 19-year-old has access to state-of-the-art training facilities and exclusive coaching allowing him to reach sporting heights and grab life by the (foot)balls.
YA: Coming from country Victoria, what has it been like being exposed to the resources of a pro football club?
MM: Being at Melbourne City is crazy, they’ve got everything in terms of coaching staff and training facilities. It is probably the best club I have been at in terms of facilities. It is so much different to back home in Shepparton, I didn’t really get that stuff. Obviously you wouldn’t expect it, back then it was different, but you would expect it now being in a professional environment.
YA: Before landing at City you had a stint at Melbourne Victory, what was that like?
MM: When I was 15, I first went to Victory, I was in the system for three years before they decided to let me go. I was in contact with Melbourne City soon after and they asked me to come in and it all happened from there. I had a trial and Zeljko (Kalac) liked me and he was willing to take me in.
YA: How has the season been so far?
MM: I’ve started playing regularly which is what you want, but performance-wise I have been doing well I guess. From the start, the team did well, but we sort of struggled in the last few games. Obviously with the coach going out (Joe Palatsides) the boys have struggled a bit, but now that we have a coach we have started to get motivated.
YA: What about your personal form and development?
MM: I’m training full-time with the A-League boys, so obviously that plays a massive part in my training, with Zeljko Kalac (Melbourne City’s goalkeeping coach) there as well. Looking back when I first was at Victory, I have jumped massively in terms of training. Performance-wise I have been killing it I guess, the coaches are happy.
YA: What has it been like training with the A-League side?
MM: Yeah it has been a very good experience, with the coaching staff and the older boys like Eugene (Galekovic) and Mark (Birighitti) being there too. It is obviously different training with the youth team because that experience isn’t there, but when you are up with the seniors they seem to tell you everything. If you are doing something wrong, they will point it out and give you a hand. There are opportunities there, and being able to sit on the bench for the A-League boys last weekend just motivated me even more to keep pushing. Now that they are done, I just have to wait until pre-season to get back with them. It has been really good training with them, very good exposure.
Equally as proficient with the ball at his feet as his hands, Mawith epitomises the modern goalie. Immaculate distribution, cat-like reflexes and serious cojones all rolled into one to form the complete custodian. But his skill set wasn’t honed on the pristine pitches of the concrete jungle, but rather on the country paddocks of Shepparton. Starting his career as an outfielder like many other goalkeepers, Mawith’s tall frame earned him glove duty and he hasn’t looked back since.
YA: Did you grow up in Shepparton?
MM: I moved to Shepparton when I was seven, so I was there for eight years. The last time I went back was probably a year ago, I try to make it back, but it’s hard with training. I still talk to a few of the boys there and I have got family in Shepparton, so it is still home.
YA: Who did you play for back in Shepparton?
MM: I started off in school football with St Mel’s. That led to Kialla Lakes, and then I played for Shepparton, Shepparton United, Tatura and the rep team as well. I was at a few clubs there.
YA: What influenced you to head to Melbourne initially?
MM: It was my parents, they had job opportunities here. I lived here for a year before I went to Shepparton, so we have family down here, and that is pretty much what brought us back to Melbourne.
YA: Was it a big difference when you first went down to Melbourne and started playing in the city?
MM: The quality that was in Shepparton was so much better than here, because I was playing in a State League Five team, and GNEFA (Goulburn North East Football Association) was massive back then. I don’t know what it is like now, I’ve heard it has dropped off, but back then it was unbelievable. The players, just everything about it.
YA: When did you first become a goalkeeper?
MM: I was a goalkeeper back in Shepparton. Year 6 I started, I was an outfielder back then. Our goalkeeper got injured and I was the tallest one there. I’ve always been tall, so my coach said ‘just chuck him in’. I went in goal and I actually tore it up. We ended up winning the game, and then we made the final where I was in goal for a penalty shootout and I won that as well. It all started from there.
YA: Your cousin is Alou Kuol, we have interviewed him before and he is a bit of a character. Do you speak to him much?
MM: I do. I saw him the other weekend when he came to Melbourne. He sees me often as he’s always playing down here, and normally when the bus goes back he stays with me. He is a really good player as well. I’ve told him to come to Melbourne and play, but he says he is the king in Shepparton. He is doing well and I am happy for him.
YA: What has been your favourite footballing moment?
MM: Definitely being on the teamsheet for the A-League boys last weekend. It is the second time being in the squad, but it was the first time on the bench.
YA: What has been your least favourite moment?
MM: That’s a hard one, as a keeper you’d think you would cop it a lot. It would have to be in the National Youth League for City, there was a corner and I choked which ended up costing us making the final.
YA: Who is your footballing idol?
MM: David De Gea. He is just different. I reckon if I wanted to be able to do things any other keeper could do it would be De Gea, in terms of shot-stopping ability, footwork and all that.
YA:If you could play for any team, who would it be?
MM: Chelsea. I’ve supported them since I was little.
YA: What is next for you in terms of football?
MM: Hopefully sit on the bench regularly for the first team. And leading on from that, the next thing would probably be making my debut and everything else will follow. My aim at the moment is to continue to keep working hard at training.
Youth Academy is an ongoing investigation into the Goulburn Valley’s footballing wonderkids. Each week we will profile an upcoming talent who has captured the attention of the local footballing scene.