Black lo­cal soc­cer stars plied their trade in the US and Europe at great per­sonal cost

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­

With the pass­ing of Dar­ius “Ndoro” Dhlomo last month, another cur­tain – on the history of black South African foot­ballers – has fallen.

Dhlomo was one of the pioneers of black football and pur­sued a ca­reer in Europe sign­ing for Dutch club Her­a­cles Almelo at the rel­a­tively se­nior age of 27.

At his first train­ing ses­sion with his new club, his team-mates dis­cov­ered him miss­ing.

“We could not find him. And only af­ter a short while did we see him again. He had changed some­where else be­cause he sim­ply could not be­lieve that black and white play­ers used the same chang­ing rooms,” re­calls Dhlomo’s for­mer team-mate Henk ten Brink.

It was not the first “les­son” the midfielder learnt in his first months in the Nether­lands.

Dutch sports his­to­rian Jur­ryt van de Vooren met Dhlomo in 1985 when the two crossed paths in their work as anti-apartheid ac­tivists.

“Dhlomo told me at our first meet­ing that when he ar­rived at the air­port, he could not be­lieve high­rank­ing club of­fi­cials, who were white, car­ried his bags.”

Dhlomo, who joined Her­a­cles from Dur­ban’s Bau­man­nville City Blacks, was an ex­cel­lent foot­baller and ten­nis player. He was also an ac­com­plished mu­si­cian, play­ing drums and singing, and a boxer who had won the South African mid­dleweight di­vi­sion.

He con­tin­ued these ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter join­ing Her­a­cles and even boxed pro­fes­sion­ally in Europe.

The Dur­ban-born player was one of six black foot­ballers who moved abroad in the space of a few years.

Steve “Kala­ma­zoo” Mokone and David Julius were the first and signed with Coven­try City and Sport­ing Lis­bon, re­spec­tively. They were fol­lowed by Gerry Fran­cis, who joined Leeds United, and Herbert “Shordex” Zuma, who also signed for Her­a­cles. A short while later Al­bert “Hurry-Hurry” Jo­han­neson joined Fran­cis at Leeds.

This was fol­lowed by a lengthy lull, which was only bro­ken in 1968 when Kaizer “Chin­cha Gu­luva” Mo­taung joined At­lanta Chiefs in the North Amer­i­can Soc­cer League (NASL).

The Kaizer Chiefs supremo was the first of many black South African foot­ballers to join NASL clubs. The late Pa­trick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe and Namib­ian-born Her­man “Pele” Blaschke fol­lowed five years later and opened the flood­gates as Bernard “Danc­ing Shoes” Hartze, Phil “Mr Jones” Set­shedi, Ephraim “Jomo” Sono and oth­ers joined the NASL.

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of – if not all – black South African foot­ballers who played in the US not only re­turned to play for lo­cal clubs dur­ing the off-sea­son, they re­turned home at the end of their NASL ca­reers.

Dhlomo and his fel­low pioneers how­ever, opted to re­main in Europe once they had hung up their boots.

Dhlomo and Zuma stayed and passed away in the Nether­lands and Mokone moved to the US where he died ear­lier this year. Jo­han­neson strug­gled with life af­ter football in Eng­land and lost the bat­tle with his in­ner de­mons aged 55 in 1995.

Fran­cis con­tin­ued liv­ing in the UK be­fore mov­ing to Canada, while Julius stayed in Por­tu­gal.

Van de Vooren said Dhlomo took a con­scious de­ci­sion at the end of his ca­reer.

“He was a very po­lit­i­cal man and when he fin­ished play­ing football he had to choose be­tween telling peo­ple about the evils of apartheid, know­ing he would not be able to re­turn as long as the white regime re­mained in power.

“He de­cided it was more im­por­tant to do po­lit­i­cal work in the Nether­lands than re­turn home.”

But even for those who were not as openly po­lit­i­cal as Dhlomo, stay­ing in Europe came at a great per­sonal ex­pense.

Bhanoyi Zuma, whose fa­ther Herbert passed away in May last year, said there was not a day that went by when her par­ents did not miss South Africa.

“When he joined Her­a­cles, he signed the con­tract with­out know­ing fully that he would be stay­ing there for good.

“He played a few games out­side South Africa and thought it was some­thing sim­i­lar. When he re­alised he would be stay­ing to play football in the Nether­lands, he came home dur­ing the hol­i­days and my mother and us kids stayed in Dur­ban.

“A few years later, she took us to the Nether­lands and, at first, she thought she would be there just for a lengthy hol­i­day.

“But then ev­ery­thing was ar­ranged. There was a house and we kids were well looked af­ter, so a few months turned into years and she is still there.

“They de­cided to sac­ri­fice for us. They thought there were bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for us chil­dren in Europe, so even though they wanted to re­turn to South Africa they stayed in the Nether­lands be­cause they wanted to give us the best they could.”

Bhanoyi Zuma – also the niece of for­mer Bush­bucks player Vusi “Stadig My Kind” Makhathini and Mbon­geni “Mpimpi” Makhathini, who also moved to the Nether­lands in the late 1960s and played for FC Utrecht and other clubs – says one of the main rea­sons play­ers like her fa­ther were not as recog­nised as those for whom they paved the way was be­cause there was no tele­vi­sion at the time.

“They were recog­nised mainly by those who saw them play, but it is so long ago that mem­o­ries fade. There is vir­tu­ally no footage of them play­ing, so mem­o­ries are the only things that keep them alive.”

One can only hope the likes of Zuma, Jo­han­neson, Dhlomo, Fran­cis, Julius and Mokone – who paved the way for Mo­taung, Sono, Nt­solen­goe and later stars such as Lu­cas Radebe, Benni McCarthy and Steven Pien­aar – are some­how im­printed in the mem­o­ries of those who were too young to see them play.


PI­O­NEER SA In­di­ans cap­tain ‘Links’ Pa­day­achee (left) and SA Africans cap­tain Dar­ius Dhlomo (right) at the 1956 Ka­jee Cup at Dur­ban’s Cur­ries Foun­tain sta­dium

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