Following the tragic death of football legend Marc “Batch” Batchelor, S’Busiso Mseleku looks at other brutal deaths of footballers and administrators
The death of Marc Batchelor this week brought back memories of a number of South African football players and officials who have been brutally murdered over the years.
The list includes Kaizer Chiefs captain Ariel “Pro” Kgongoane, one of the club’s founders Ewert “The Lip” Nene in 1976, Moroka Swallows Aaron “Roadblock” Makhathini, Orlando Pirates official China “Dibaba” Hlongwane in the 1980s and Senzo “Nzori” Meyiwa just five years ago.
One thing that all football followers will agree on is that Batch, who was gunned down outside his home in Olivedale in Johannesburg on Monday evening, just six months shy of his 40th birthday, was no sluggard when it came to kicking the ball.
Even those who vow that the proof of the pudding is in the eating will be convinced once they realise that he not only played for the Soweto Big Three – Pirates, Chiefs and Moroka Swallows – but also donned the Mamelodi Sundowns shirt.
That, by South African football standards, is no mean feat and one only a few practitioners of the beautiful game can lay claim to. He also played for SuperSport United.
Before joining the big guns, the gangling striker, who was your typical, traditional English centre forward or Number 9, plied his trade for Dynamos and later for Bidvest Wits, who were then known as Wits University. His haul of 25 goals in 62 starts for Wits caught the eye of Pirates.
This proved to be a master stroke as he won four major trophies with the Buccaneers, including the 1995 African Cup of Champions Clubs (now called the CAF Champions League).
MARC BATCHELOR - Fondly remembered
Orlando Pirates statement: “Batch, as he was affectionately known, was not known for his speed or skill, but play anything to his head, and he was in a league of his own. Batch was part of the Pirates team that conquered the continent in 1995, where he featured in the first leg of the final against Asec Mimosas as a starter, before being replaced by Bruce Ramokadi in the second leg. There, he came off the bench in Pirates’ famous victory over the Ivorian giants.”
Irvin Khoza: “Marc Batchelor was a hero who trained in the townships during apartheid and used the same showers as the black players. He, along with Mark Fish and Gavin Lane, made South Africa appear normal when in fact it was not.”
Kaizer Motaung: “I am shocked to learn about the passing of former Kaizer Chiefs player Marc Batchelor. On behalf of Kaizer Chiefs, I wish to express my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and friends, as well as the football fraternity. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
George “Madlinyoka” Dearnaley via Twitter: “Firstly it’s MARC – he hated Mark. To his mates, he was Batch. I sent him a WhatsApp when I saw him at the Oscar Pistorius trial: ‘Hey Batch. I see you are still on the bench!’ He called me straight away to tell me my jokes were still crap.”
It was in 1995 when I crisscrossed the continent with Pirates as a reporter on a trip that saw us head to Nigeria, that yours truly discovered how big a heart Batch actually had.
Bidvest Wits: 1992-1994
Orlando Pirates: 1994-1996
SuperSport United: 1996-1997
Kaizer Chiefs: 1997-2000
Mamelodi Sundowns: 2000-2001
Moroka Swallows: 2001-2003
As the club chairperson Irvin “The Iron Duke” Khoza observed this week, Batchelor was not scared to venture into the townships for training sessions – he sometimes ventured to places only angels dared to tread.
I recollect how we went into the dark, crowded streets of Abuja with the legendary Nigerian goalkeeper Williams Okpara as our tour guide and marvelled at Batch gobbling chunks and chunks of “chicken dust”.
This was on the eve of the tough encounter against BCC Lions in which Bruce Ramokadi scored the only goal of the match.
Those jaunts into the belly of the continent culminated on December 22 1995 at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, when Pirates left the stadium in tears after Jerry “Legs of Thunder” Sikhosana scored the goal that earned the club their first and – so far – only star.
Batchelor was fearless on the field and was gallantry personified! Hamba kahle, football soldier!
FOOTBALL - Other tragic deaths
Ariel “Pro” Kgongoane – June 16 1976
The respected Kaizer Chiefs captain, who was a school teacher in Soweto, was hit by a stray bullet on the day the Soweto uprisings started.
Ewert “The Lip” Nene – August 10 1976
Known as The Lip because of his gift of the gab, a moniker he shared with Muhammad Ali, Nene was chased down a KwaThema street and stabbed to death by thugs who were against him signing Nelson “Teenage” Dladla from Pilkington United Brothers.
Aaron “Roadblock” Makhathini – April 12 1985
The promising young defender was gunned down outside his Pimville home while returning from training. His death was the result of the big, bloody football split of 1985.
China “Dibaba” Hlongwane – Date not available
After surviving being stabbed 27 times by thugs live on television at the Ellis Park Stadium on March 23 1985 before an Orlando Pirates versus Jomo Comsos league fixture following the great split of 1985, he was shot dead by an unknown gunman years later.
Senzo “Nzori” Meyiwa – October 26 2014
The Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, who was at the height of his career, was shot dead by an unknown gunman in a “robbery” while at his musician girlfriend Kelly Khumalo mother’s home in Vosloorus.