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The birth of Kaizer Chiefs through the eyes of Kaizer Motaung

A calabash decorated with traditional beads in red white, green and blue colours of the national flag on which is inscribed: “It’s Africa’s turn”, a reminder to Fifa regarding South Africa’s ambitions to host the 2006 World Cup, occupies a prominent place on the display cabinet at the Kaizer Chiefs boardroom.

This is where, at the tranquil Naturena headquarters of the most successful team in South Africa, managing director Kaizer Motaung, seated at the head of the table, takes us down memory lane and recalls the formation of the club which has become an institution.

Motaung reveals, perhaps for the first time, that had it not been encouragement from his late father Ceyland Motaung, maybe Chiefs would not have been formed. His father urged him to go ahead with plans to form the club when he was assailed by doubts.

His father, a staunch Buccaneer, had supported his son throughout his career at Pirates. But, after assembling some of the finest talent in the country, he started having doubts about whether the venture he was about to undertake would be successful or a total failure.

“It was then that my late father urged me to go ahead with the project, that I summoned enough courage to proceed with the plan, ” said Motaung.

Motaung, who had up until then been campaigning in the North American Soccer League, discovered on his return in 1969, that some of his buddies – Ratha Mokgoatleng, Msomi Khoza, Zero Johnson and the late Ewert Nene, had been expelled from Pirates.

“There was this game between Pirates against Highlands Park which was supposed to be played in Swaziland. The trio apparently did not want to play in that game and had quarrelled with the Pirates executive.

Through my contacts, I had been informed about developments while still in the States. I didn’t want to interrupt anything. I simply asked Pirates permission to use the expelled players in a tour of the country to play some friendly matches.

“I approached Mike Tseka, then Pirates chairman and expressed fears that I foresaw trouble and suggested that perhaps it would be a perfect idea if I used the expelled players to calm down the situation as it was tense in the camp.

Several people have played key roles in the formation of Kaizer Chiefs and while others were well known, there are those who toiled tirelessly but remained in the background, yet their contributions were extremely significant. It is a fact that the late Gilbert Sekgabi, Clarence Mlokoti, and China Ngema, not to forget the late Ewert “The Lip” Nene, played huge roles in terms of the formation and growth of this team.

Oom Locks (Mlokoti) was actually recruited from Pirates. One can safely say we poached him. We approached him and informed him that we had something professional planned and needed him to get it off the ground.

We also had other people like Strike Makgatho, who was at Swallows at that time. Interestingly, we attracted supporters from Pirates and Swallows. I guess supporters of both teams were looking for something new, something special, something different to identify with, and Chiefs fitted the bill perfectly.

Kaizer Chiefs was formed, I guess, at the right time. We were living through a politically repressive and violent era. For instance, if you defeated Pirates at Orlando Stadium, chances were that it would be difficult to leave the stadium unharmed.

Then along came Chiefs. Our dress code was such that it appealed to a lot of people. Maybe that is why, when we started, we had such a large number of women supporters (laughs). But seriously though, we promoted the concept of love and peace, and incorporated it into our slogan.

We emphasised through words and deeds, both on and off the field, that soccer was about comradeship, about friendship, sportsmanship. That is why it hit us so hard, when a peaceful man like Ewert Nene was killed so violently. To be honest, I was supposed to have accompanied Nene to Springs on that fateful night in 1976 to see Nelson “Teenage” Tutu, the night Nene was stabbed to death.

When we finished training, he came charging to my place and was in a hurry for us to leave as he wanted to see other friends in Kwa-Thema. But I was still taking a bath and, he elected to go with Jan “Malombo” Lechaba, saying I was delaying them.

We were shattered to learn later, that he had been stabbed to death. It was such a terrible blow to hear of his violent death, particularly because Springs was not known as a crime ridden, rough area. I should know, my wife comes from there.

And perhaps I must also tell our readers about Simon Shezi. Another stalwart of the team and founder member of Chiefs. Few people are aware of the role he played in the club’s formative years and how sad, that he is also no longer with us.

When we formed the team, the first meeting was held at Shezi’s home. Shezi, known as “Makhosi” for reasons I’ll explain later, provided, voluntarily, transport for the team, largely because he owned a fleet of taxis.

He personally liked me and was one of the few people who kept in constant touch with me when I was playing in the States. He kept me updated about events and developments at home. He was such a humble and down-to earth fellow who used the term “Makhosi” when greeting everyone. A literal interpretation of “Makhosi” is Chiefs and naturally, it kind of gelled nicely with our slogan – AMAKHOSI.

“But of course, Tseka did not seem to understand my concept, to a point where together with the executive, they felt I had taken sides with the expelled guys. But I decided to go ahead with the plan regardless.

“In fact, a year prior to those hectic days, I had introduced ideas in terms of a holistic approach towards administration. But some people were obviously not quite happy.

“Now, a year later, I had seen how professional clubs are run abroad and suggested that we should adopt the same concept at Pirates. Nobody cared to listen. But, I got wind of the fact that if we wanted to go on with our “thing” then I could take those expelled guys.”

It is now history that Motaung, backed by the late, flamboyant Ewert Nene, China Ngema, Elijah Msibi, the late Gilbert Sekgabi, went on a recruiting drive for players to feature for the Kaizer XI. City Ramblers offered them the late Ariel “Pro” Kgongoane, who was to become a great captain but died tragically during the 1976 student uprisings. Another “Pro,” Doctor Khumalo’s father, Elkim, also joined from Swallows.

Jackie Masike and “Pro” Molope from an amateur team in Molotsane, Ingle Singh and Vincent Julius from Sundowns were also recruited, including “Ace” Ntsoelengoe and “Banks” Setlhodi after a match against a Ranfontein Invitation and “Screamer” Tshabalala.

Yet, the idea of forming a club had not yet materialised as Motaung remained loyal to Pirates and was hoping that they would sort out their internal wrangles and, hopefully he would return to play for his beloved Buccaneers.

Then came the crunch, when his time to return to the States dawned, and doubts about whether this Kaizer XI would sustain itself started creeping in, his undying love and loyalty to Pirates gnawed at his consciousness, it was all very confusing.

“That was when my father said to me: “You know what, I think you should go ahead with your plans to form this team because I’m also sick and tired of all these problems at Pirates” and his encouragement spurred me on,” said Motaung.

But as football administrators were on the verge of forming the new professional NPSL, we couldn’t be accepted because somehow, someone raised a technical issue that we were not affiliated to any association in the country.

“In fact, moves were afoot within the then Johannesburg Bantu Footbal Association to prevent us from affiliating to the new organisation. They wanted to stop us and others called us a “Rebel Group.”

But Matthew Mphahane, who was involved in the Nigel Football Association, advised us to affiliate to his association and encouraged us to proceed with the formation of the club as he felt it would be a good thing for local football.

Chiefs, who had by now affiliated to the Nigel Football Association and had changed their name from Kaizer XI to Kaizer Chiefs, started playing in cup and friendly matches in preparations for the start of the NPSL in 1971.

They won many tournaments and cups, and the turning point when, according to Motaung, when they played and beat both Swallows and Pirates on the same day and Kaizer Chiefs had arrived big time on local football.

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