Yesterday, South Africa was once more to experience what has become the biggest event in the country’s sporting calendar, the 166th Soweto derby at FNB Stadium.
While there were many people involved in the journey to the birth of what has morphed into what it is today, since that first match-up on January 24 1970, two names still stand out as the visionaries behind this event.
Believe it or not, the person who founded Orlando Pirates in 1937 – as The Orlando Boys Club – was boxing trainer Andries “Pelepele” Mkhwanazi.
While many players and officials were chased away from Orlando Pirates in 1969, it is the name Kaizer Motaung, who gathered them all together, that still remains relevant today.
And it’s not only because the club – Kaizer Chiefs – bears his name. There are many other reasons such as bravery under trying circumstances.
Motaung has featured in many events that shaped the history of South African football. He was there when the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) was formed in 1970.
He was actually at the forefront when clubs broke away from the NPSL to form the National Soccer League in 1985.
Come to think of it, he was part of the group that hatched the idea and then went all the way to the UK to lure one Trevor “The Bulldog” Phillips to come and run the Premier Soccer League as its founding CEO in 1996.
Prior to this, Motaung was part of a group known as The A-Team (a group known for other activities besides football, but that’s a story for another day) that lured Irvin Khoza from football Siberia to come and resuscitate an ailing Pirates in the early eighties, at a time when the club was constantly facing relegation.
It was the bad administration of the club that led to one of the players famously proclaiming to his teammates, in full view and within earshot of the club bosses: “By the way gents, we are only going to be paid on the 40th of the month.”
Khoza came back and put the Buccaneers back on their pedestal. This injected a new lease of life into the Sea Robbers and their hordes of supporters known as the Ghost.
It was the A-Team also that hatched the plan (viewed by many as crazy at the time) that saw South Africa lodge its first application to host a Fifa World Cup, with the late Solomon “Stix” Morewa writing that letter.
Much as Mkhwanazi and Motaung lived in different eras, with the only common denominator being that the latter started his career as a Pirates player, I can bet my last rand (for whatever it is worth) that they could not have imagined at the time they formed the two clubs that their coming together would grow to be the biggest sporting event in the country for years to come.
That is why they qualify to be referred to as visionaries.
Over the years, there has been a number of visionaries who have brought innovations that have improved South African football.
However, there seems to be a dearth of such personalities in South African football right now.
Patrice Motsepe must be one of the last ones to revolutionise local football after declaring that he wanted to make Mamelodi Sundowns one of the best clubs on the African continent when he bought it in 2004.
Today factionalism seem to be a disease that is eating away at our football bit by bit.
Case in point: last week, Safa president Danny Jordaan organised a gathering (they are called workshops these days) at Safa House to discuss:
. Current opportunities and challenges;
. International best practice;
. The role of government, Safa, the PSL, Safpu (SA Football Players Union), the South African Football Coaches Association and the South African Football Masters and Legends Association;
. The establishment of a players’ trust/insurance fund;
. Legacy initiatives;
. The role of legends in school football; and
. Coaching and administration courses.
One of the observations I made is that most football structures are fractured.
I was even told that the national and Gauteng presidents of the masters and legends do not even speak to each other.
The fraught relationship between Safa and the PSL is well documented.
Are there no visionaries within football who can bring all the warring factions together and leave a lasting legacy for their role in the game?
I think there are, but maybe they are too scared to dirty their hands.
This is a clarion call to arms. The Soweto derby can’t remain the only thing we are proud of and that is able to fill up the humongous Calabash called the FNB Stadium.
Otherwise, the Sundowns versus Pirates clashes will gradually become the only other major event to look forward to on the local football calendar.
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