Just when you thought they were dead and buried, some of local football’s masters and legends are on the verge of establishing a stokvel of a different kind.
This week, the group told City Press that the initiative would be a partnership with a prominent funeral parlour and insurance brokers.
However, Judah Duiker, Charles Makhubu, David Kholwane and Vusi “Maria Maria” Lamola of the Soweto Legends were quick to add that they were not a burial society.
The venture is all about promoting a better lifestyle for their members and other former professional footballers who have almost been forgotten.
“We don’t want fancy funerals when we are gone. This is about a healthy lifestyle. We want the legends to know about financial management and how to save money. We are finalising other deals with some insurance companies whereby, once a member is gone, his family will get R20 000 and a headstone erected on the same day,” said Makhubu.
He said some former football players have raised their hands and wanted to be counted because they were not “old, but just grown-ups”.
Forgotten yesteryear players have decided to take the bull by the horns by being at the forefront of reviving football in schools.
They decried their lack of involvement and claimed to have been sidelined by Safa.
“People are perceived as liabilities instead of assets,” said former Kaizer Chiefs player Lamola.
He said former players had a big role to play in the development of South African football, particularly at school level.
“Safa thinks [only] the 1996 crop of players [who won Afcon] should get recognition, but football started long before 1996. Before then, there were people who swelled the ground and they must all be recognised.”
They said the situation that legends found themselves in was dire as most of them were no longer employable because of their age and [lack of other] skills, but they had families to feed.
It’s unfortunate that we are not being given the respect that we deserve
Vusi “Maria Maria” Lamola
“We feel we have a role to play in terms of ploughing back [our knowledge] at schools. Today’s youngsters need role models and we are there to offer our services and life skills. We feel like we have been buried alive by the system as we are not being utilised by the powers that be,” said Lamola.
“It’s unfortunate that we are not being given the respect that we deserve. We have been knocking on different doors, but the response has been very poor.
“The fact that we are not part of development structures means they can’t utilise our expertise. We want to be part of the change that is happening in the country and we have the capacity and human capital to do so,” he said.
“Even though we are being sidelined, we feel we must do something.
“We want to deal with school violence. Schools used to be safe environments, but when you isolate certain people, these are the results. Our members are fathers and mothers in communities, and can help stop violence and bullying at schools.”
At the top of their priority list, the legends said, was to revive Wednesday sports days at schools.
“Most of us started there and we were discovered there. Soweto used to produce gold. If you want gold, you have to dig deeper, but, in Soweto, gold was on the pavements and there was no need to dig deeper. But that is not the case any more. We need to go back to basics because talent is there,” said Makhubu.
The biggest problem is that we are fragmented and talking in different voices
However, the legends’ biggest challenge is lack of unity.
“The biggest problem is that we are fragmented and talking in different voices. We must first integrate everyone from different eras. We want an association that caters for everyone, not just a few individuals,” Makhubu said.
The legends said they were upset that the talent identification programme was non-existent. Lamola said the fact that most players only matured at 27 or older was a true reflection of how bad things were: “The likes of Fetsi Molatedi played as a professional at 17 or so, so why can’t we do it again? With so many resources in the country, is it not possible to improve our programmes and fast-track some of these talented youngsters?” he asked.
A process of uniting the legends has started, with former players being brought together “in one room” to iron out their differences.