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

Kick Off - - Feature -

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.

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