Sunday, 19 May 2013

Kaizer Motaung: he's nearly 70 but is there a finer man in South African football?

Chief of Chiefs: Kaizer Motaung

How not to be popular with plundering Pirates. Tell the world you wish Kaizer Motaung was still the driving force in South African football.

Watching the great man speak after the AmaKhosi’s championship celebrations in Mbombela on Saturday, you could almost forget the mess which left Polokwane City at the top of the National First Division on Sunday night. You could almost ignore his team’s unimpressive finishing to the season, five draws and two defeats in seven games.

AmaTuks' upset 1-0 win over the already-crowned Chiefs left Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns languishing outside the PSL’s lucrative top eight. But in front of a capacity crowd surrounded by the giraffes of Mbombela’s elegant World Cup edifice, Kaizer moved us beyond the humdrum.

The words rumbled forth, easy, unprepared from a 68-year-old in full control of his faculties: “I told this team this is a great club with a great history. Now you have to go out there and write your own history. That is exactly what they have done this season.”

And for the first foreigner to win the PSL title in his first year, Stuart Baxter, he used the simple, the straightforward: “I must give credit to Stuart. He’s been incredible in his maiden season. These Chiefs will not be remembered as chokers like some others before them.”

Whether Serbian ex-boss Vladimir Vemezovic was watching, we may never know. Baxter’s arrival and early 4-1 defeat against Mamelodi Sundowns was generally lampooned but Kaizer said: “We made those changes late in the season. We took a lot of criticism. Football is a game of opinions. But we knew where we wanted to go and what we required.”

Perhaps now would be a good time to express an interest. As a kid in what was then known as Verwoerdburg (now Centurion) I was one of the few, using foreign football magazines like Shoot and Goal, to find out about Motaung’s return to South Africa in 1970.

There was not television, no internet, only censored print media to keep in touch with the real world, where all men were equal. There weren’t many black male icons in South Africa in those days who weren’t behind bars, banned or banished.

Kaizer was one. The one. Famous in the US for his exploits amid the global superstars at Atlanta Chiefs he returned to set up his own team and take on the side he grew up with in Soweto, the famous Orlando Pirates.

I met him for the first time in the early 80s as a football writer on Durban’s Natal Mercury. I was totally intimidated. By then Chiefs were the biggest club in the old NPSL and the fledgling NSL. The man had presence, authority; in the old South Africa he was a revelation.

And he remains just that. While others squabble over the fruits, he just gets on with it, surrounded by his own family and an estimated 15million AmaKhosi nationwide.

And to add the icing to the cake which has cheered so many, Chincha Guluva confirmed his iconic Zebras WILL compete in the African Champions League next season – hopefully alongside his old Pirates if they come through a tough qualifying group over the next three months.

Kaizer said: “We ARE committed to CAF. Playing in Africa means we are representing our country and it is something we cannot shy away from.

“It is expensive – and there was no sponsorship of the competition when we first got involved. That’s why South African teams pulled out.

“Now it is sponsored, even though it is not adequate and that's why as the PSL, we give the clubs that participate there R1 million.”

But Kaizer knows full well the pitfalls of travelling north: “CAF need to improve in a lot of areas. You saw what happened to Pirates in the Congo.”

This will appear as my regular "Neal and Pray" column in The New Age on Tuesday morning.


  1. O, what a man we have in our Chairman. As usual, i enjoyed writtings of good taste, '''Neal and pray'' i cannot wait for that. You are indeed a man of good works.

    I now have it on good terms that should i put to you the words: Kaizer will write a book and talk about everything from Phefeni to Lena roan.

  2. Mr Neal Collins,why you hate Irvin Khoza and his team Orlando Pirates?Are you envy what the Iron Duke has done for the game un this country.We can read between lines that comments are directed Dr Khoza when you say"While others squabble over fruits".That is stupid journalism.

  3. Hey you old British fart,leave Mr Khoza and Orlando Pirates.Can't you listen!Go back to England and report on non-league football matters.South African football doesn't buffoons like you.