Thulane Fortunate Mongake, 26, Ernest Zimisile Klaas, 28, Basimane Levy Njielane, 34, Catherine Motsilanyane, 26, and Thapelo Joseph Senne, 21, my new World Cup heroes.
Bafana Bafana may have been squeezed out of the tournament early but these are the five brave South Africans from Phokeng, the less-than-plush township near Rustenburg, who rifled through the underwear of the England squad at the neighbouring more-than-plush Royal Marang hotel.
Thulane, Ernest, Basimane, Catherine and Thapelo were on the cleaning staff of the brand new hotel. While England were getting their knickers in a twist and plunging out of the World Cup in disgrace, our Famous Five chose to find a few souvenirs of England’s all-too-brief stay in South Africa.
Apparently they also took R485 in cash. That’s about £42. It wasn’t really money they were after. It was the glorious array of boxer shorts and briefs, designer labels with a value of R80,000 (about £7,800). And who can blame them? In this country, you’re lucky if you can afford a pair of stained y-fronts in many areas.
Apparently the England squad didn’t find out about the theft for four days. With the weight of a man refererring to the purloining of masterpieces from the National Gallery, North West Police Colonel Junior Metsi intoned solemnly: “They started on June 21 and stole things until June 25.”
England’s £100,000-a-week stars – playing the worst football we saw from any of the 32 nations between those dates - didn’t even miss their underwear for four days. The cleaners were arrested, the items were returned, the players were able to come home in their pants. But they couldn’t cover their arses.
The Famous Five were tried and condemned to three years in jail or a fine of R6,000 (£600). I am tempted to set up a “Free the Five” fund. Instantly.
My God, they risked everything rifling through the underwear of such jocks as John Terry and Ashley Cole. Don’t they know what these people are like? Why didn’t they steal their football boots? Or Robert ‘Phokeng’ Green’s gloves? That might have been for the greater good of the game. Okay, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter has apologised for Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal in the 4-1 defeat against Germany but it was hardly a closely contested game.
England flew home to absolutely no adoring fans. Coach Fabio Capello is fighting for his job. Wayne Rooney as gone from the new Pele to the old Pele. Green international career is over. Who is Gareth Barry? They were a disgrace. They deserved to lose their underwear. It’s not as if they can’t afford it. They should lose more than that. Over 30,000 England fans spent around £5,000 each coming out to see their pathetic efforts.
Then there’s the case of Simon Wright, the Sunday Mirror journalist arrested for hiding Pavlos Joseph, the England fan who appeared in the Green Point dressing room to provide an impromptu verdict on Fabio Capello’s men.
Heroes all. For highlighting the performance of our over-paid footballing gods. Pants, as the English expression goes.
Neal Collins is in South Africa to marvel at the South Americans, mourn England... and promote his first novel A GAME APART, the real story behind this World Cup. For more information see www.nealcollins.co.uk.