An in­ter­view with the man I killed

Af­ter com­mit­ting jour­nal­ism’s car­di­nal sin by writ­ing that for­mer Bucs striker McDon­ald Skhosana was dead, S’Bu­siso Mse­leku chewed the fat with the very for­giv­ing soc­cer leg­end

CityPress - - Sport -

Iwas in high spir­its as I stepped into the shower on Sun­day in prepa­ra­tion for church. How­ever, upon step­ping out, I was soon brought way down. This was af­ter read­ing an SMS from for­mer Moroka Swal­lows goal­keeper Josiah “JC” Cindi.

“Morn­ing, brother S’Bu,” he wrote. “I just read your ar­ti­cle to­day in which you men­tioned that Rhee [Or­lando Pi­rates’ for­mer striker, McDon­ald Skhosana] had passed away. He is still alive and is a mem­ber of our SA Masters and Leg­ends Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion. We are with him at Beth­le­hem. Thanks for the ar­ti­cle, Bra S’Bu.”


Af­ter fran­tic calls and mes­sages, I even­tu­ally spoke to Skhosana and ar­ranged to meet him face to face.

He agreed. We met, and, af­ter gra­ciously ac­cept­ing my apol­ogy, he shared his con­cerns about his for­mer club – I use “for­mer” here guard­edly, given that one of the club’s slo­gans is “once a Pi­rate, al­ways a Pi­rate” – fol­low­ing its dis­mal per­for­mance last sea­son.

“If I was in charge, I would open the door and let all the cur­rent play­ers go, ex­cept maybe three,” he said.

“The only player who qual­i­fies to play for Pi­rates in the cur­rent squad is Ab­bubaker Mo­bara and maybe two oth­ers. As for the rest, I would let them go.”

The other two play­ers he sin­gled out for re­main­ing in the squad were Riyaad Noro­dien and Lu­vuyo Memela.

“Memela just needs proper coach­ing. He needs to be told not to keep his head down, but to look up. He should also dis­card this bad habit of hang­ing on to the ball for too long. If he could cor­rect those short­com­ings, he would be great.”

De­scrib­ing last sea­son’s poor show­ing, Skhosana said: “It was bad. I was so hurt to see my beloved Pi­rates fin­ish 11th on the log and lose a fi­nal [the Ned­bank Cup] with such a heavy score.

“In fact, my wife, Sis’ Khosi, was so hurt that she stopped watch­ing Bucs games for a while.”

Born in Alexan­der township 67 years ago, Skhosana started his ca­reer by kick­ing a ball around in the street, just like any kid from the ghetto. From there, he grad­u­ated to “four pal”– play­ing be­hind the poles on soc­cer grounds.

His first for­mal foot­ball club was Black Spades. Its mem­bers did drama and mu­sic per­for­mances in ad­di­tion to play­ing foot­ball un­der the guid­ance of Akheni Gumede.

In his early days, Skhosana played against Irvin “The Iron Duke” Khoza, who is the cur­rent chair­per­son of Pi­rates and the Pre­mier Soc­cer League.

“He was a de­fender for Di­ja­batho and later moved to Alexandra Black­pool, also as a de­fender. He played ei­ther at right-back or as a cen­tral de­fender. He was a clean and de­cent player,” said Skhosana.

“I think we first rubbed shoul­ders in the Un­der-17s.”

Af­ter his fam­ily was forced to move to Diep­kloof in Soweto by the apartheid regime, he joined the Diep­kloof Brave Lions, where he started in the F team and rose through the ranks to the A team.

His move to Pi­rates was dramatic, given that he was re­cruited by Moroka Swal­lows’ big 15 first.

“How­ever, when Bra China ‘Dibaba’ Hlong­wane who was stabbed 27 times [by knife-wield­ing as­sailants in the full glare of television cam­eras at El­lis Park in 1985], I would have none of it,” he re­called.

“Hlong­wane vis­ited my par­ents and asked for per­mis­sion to take me to Pi­rates. They agreed.”

Mak­ing the team was not as easy as tak­ing candy from a kid.

“I trav­elled with the club to Katle­hong for a friendly match against Pre­to­ria Sun­downs. They had Vin­cent ‘Tantie’ Julius in goal, Bernard ‘Danc­ing Shoes’ Hartze, the Singh broth­ers and Es­sop ‘Smiley’ Moosa.”

Skhosana said it took more than an hour for Pi­rates to fi­nalise the start­ing line-up, while the crowd at the packed sta­dium waited pa­tiently.

“Most of the hag­gling was about me be­cause there were three other play­ers at the club who were fight­ing for the num­ber 9 [cen­tre for­ward] po­si­tion.

“Hlong­wane told them in no un­cer­tain terms that I should be in the start­ing line-up as there was no way he could go through all that trou­ble in vain. He told them that if I was not fielded, Swal­lows would snatch me up.”

That is how Skhosana got his start. He went on to score the open­ing goal as well as the win­ning one.

“I scored about 15 min­utes into the game. Then, just be­fore half time, Smiley drib­bled past our en­tire de­fence and equalised.

“A few min­utes be­fore half time, I got the ball and did what he had done – drib­bled past their en­tire de­fence and scored the win­ner.

“We won the match 2-1, and so my place in the start­ing line-up was ce­mented.”

This was in 1970 and the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

Skhosana went on to be­come one of the best cen­tre for­wards to wear the fa­mous black-and-white Buccaneers jer­sey.

He re­gards 1973 as the team’s best sea­son. This is when Pi­rates won all the tro­phies in what was then the Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Soc­cer League. He also be­lieves that squad was the best the club has so far had.

“What made that team tick was that we were like a fam­ily. Our team spirit was at its high­est. We did not have to like each other as we came from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, but we would die for each other. Once we put that jer­sey on, we were like one.

“There were no salar­ies in those days. We used to earn be­tween R5


DID HE NET IT? The Bucs’ Nick Sesh­weni, Donald Khuse, Dave Wat­ter­son and Jo­hannes Khomane watch as Swal­lows’ Nor­man Makhehla tries to head the ball in


PRIOR TO BE­ING DA DUKE Pi­rates boss Irvin Khoza (sec­ond from right) be­fore he took the chair


IT’S LIKE THIS Rhee of­fers ad­vice on the cur­rent state of Bucs’ play

WE WERE LIKE ONE For­mer Or­lando Pi­rates player McDon­ald Rhee’ Skhosana waxes nos­tal­gic with City Press at his home in Soweto

THOSE WERE THE DAYS Skhosana packed a killer shot and be­came one of the best cen­tre for­wards to don the black-and-white jer­sey

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