‘Ntate Molemela was the Nel­son Man­dela of SA foot­ball’

CityPress - - Sport - CHARLEY PIETERSEN sport@city­press.co.za

To me, Ntate Rant­lai Petrus Molemela – who died this week aged 83 – will go down as the Nel­son Man­dela of South Africa foot­ball. He de­serves to be in the hall of fame when one is cre­ated.

South Africa must re­ally build a soc­cer mu­seum to hon­our great ad­min­is­tra­tors such as Molemela, the late Solomon “Stix” Morewa‚ Ge­orge Thabe, David “Pine” Cha­beli, Cyril Kobus, Irvin Khoza, Danny Jor­daan, Kaizer Mo­taung, Jomo Sono and many other self­less foot­ball lead­ers.

Ntate was at times a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure‚ but also an enor­mously gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor to the poor in com­mu­ni­ties around South Africa. He achieved a lot with­out any for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, but found huge suc­cess in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try at a time when it was dif­fi­cult for black busi­ness­men to flour­ish.

He used the prof­its from his var­i­ous busi­nesses to pur­chase Bloem­fontein Celtic in 1975, and his nonon­sense and hands-on ap­proach helped grow the club’s brand and turn it into one of the best-sup­ported teams in the coun­try.

He was a great soc­cer ad­min­is­tra­tor and busi­ness­man. He would build houses and churches free of charge. He was a great phi­lan­thropist. He re­mained a ser­vant of all peo­ple de­spite his suc­cess.

Ntate was a lov­ing and car­ing hus­band and fa­ther.

He was an in­spi­ra­tional, hum­ble ser­vant, a fear­less sports ad­min­is­tra­tor, soc­cer scout, in­tel­lec­tual, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist, en­trepreneur, com­mu­nity leader and em­ployer par ex­cel­lence.

He played a huge role in shap­ing the Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Soc­cer League, which mor­phed into the Na­tional Soc­cer League be­fore be­com­ing the cur­rent Premier Soc­cer League (PSL).

Ntate be­lieved in ed­u­ca­tion and young peo­ple, and he al­ways en­cour­aged young­sters to study.

The high­light of his life was when he met for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela at an event in 1995. Man­dela walked straight to Molemela and asked how the boys were, re­fer­ring to Celtic play­ers. Man­dela even joked that Molemela was the only “white head” that was out­side of pri­son dur­ing their time. He then in­vited him to sit next to him at the func­tion.

Celtic was Molemela’s last born and he loved the team whole­heart­edly. At some stage, long af­ter be­ing forced to sell the club, he said to me: “Charley, let’s start our own Celtic again be­cause my heart can’t take it if the team is not do­ing well.”

I wish to thank the Molemela fam­ily for al­low­ing Ntate to serve his coun­try while they came sec­ond to Celtic.

He loved his fam­ily dearly and was al­ways proud to share his fam­ily mem­bers’ achieve­ments.

To Max Tsha­bal­ala and the Celtic team, Ntate was very proud of you, let’s do our best to win all our re­main­ing games. To our Celtic sup­port­ers, please fill up the sta­di­ums and keep that warm spirit in hon­our of Ntate.

We have lost a fa­ther and men­tor, but heaven has gained an as­set.

To share a quote from Molemela’s book, I have seen it all: “A lot of peo­ple didn’t like me be­cause of my as­sertive­ness, con­fi­dence and will to suc­ceed. I have grown old and wise; I be­lieve no one will go through this life with­out the need to be for­given or the op­por­tu­nity to for­give.”

My last con­ver­sa­tion with Ntate was on March 25 – a day be­fore he died.

Ntate, you will never be for­got­ten. Tsamaya ka gotso khiba ya mot­soe­neng.

RE­MEM­BERED The cover of Charley Pietersen’s book on Rant­lai Molemela, ti­tled I have seen it all

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