This month’s had an extensive international career for Bafana Bafana and played locally and abroad for a number of years in a career spanning from the 1990s to the 2000s. He tells KICK OFF how things once got out of hand in a chartered flight home after B
The flight back from Ghana, following a thumping at the hands of the Black Stars, was quite an interesting one. It was 2004 and I was playing for Bafana Bafana, as I had been from the middle of the previous decade. The line between what was acceptable behaviour and what was not had changed by the mid-2000s, certainly from the 1990s when we used to get away with far more. At the back of the plane some players, including Mark Fish and myself, were having a few drinks and things seemed to be getting a little out of hand. As we were getting fired up, Fish and I decided to see if we could squeeze Benedict ‘Tso’ Vilakazi into one of the baggage compartments, because he was such a little guy. Don’t ask me what was the point of all this – we were just mucking about. Tso agreed to go with the plan – he wasn’t upset about it – and everyone on the plane was curious to see if we could actually pull this off. So we lifted him into the baggage compartment, threw him inside and closed it. We left him stewing there for a little while and he must have been thinking we’d let him out soon. When he realised that the opposite was happening, he started banging the compartment door, and everyone had a great laugh at his expense. Baxter heard the commotion from the back and came marching to find out what the racket was all about. So Baxter says: “Guys, we’ve just had a bad result, I know, but you need to calm down a little and take it easy”. So we brought Tso out from the compartment. But we still carried on with a few more drinks – not just me and Fishy, but the entire team. By this point guys were more than slightly inebriated. Fishy turned to me and said: “Why is the coach sleeping?” As you can imagine, he was thinking of a devilish plot to wind up the coach again. I asked him: “Well, what are you going to do about it?” That simple question immediately turned into an outright dare. Fish was insistent that Baxter had to wake up. We dared him to wake the coach, a rather risky endeavour considering we got a verbal yellow-card from Baxter following the horsing around with Tso just minutes earlier. But Fishy being Fishy decided the coach had been sleeping for long enough. Everyone in the plane was now watching Mark walk down the isle to see if he had the balls to wake the coach. Mark tapped Baxter on the shoulder, waking him rather rudely. Fish then says: “Coach, coach, coach! It’s okay coach, don’t worry about it, go back to sleep, we still have four hours left on the trip.” And then he walked off back to his seat. The whole plane started laughing hysterically. Baxter was obviously upset, because he was the coach and he demanded a level of discipline, especially on the back of a bad result. When Fish went back to his seat, the now wide-awake Baxter just shook his head. I thought the coach took the prank well. But as it turned out, it was the last game for Bafana for Fish and I; Baxter never chose either of us again. We screwed the pooch, but we were winding down to the end of our careers anyway. I thought he did the right thing because if I was coach I would have also not picked either of us ever again! But you don’t get dressing room characters like Fish anymore in football and it takes special guys like him to pull off things like that. They build camaraderie. You need stories like that for teams to be built and for people to be united.