Another kind of street football
“IMAGINE ASKING YOUR FRIEND FOR HIS STREET NAME AND HE SAYS, ‘I LIVE IN GOALKEEPER STREET’. WE’D SAY, ‘STOP KIDDING’ BEFORE WE REMEMBER THAT THERE IS TSUTSUMANI VILLAGE.”
Some people believe they live and breathe football, but not as much as the people in Tsutsumani, Alexandra in Johannesburg. As soon as they step out of their homes, they find themselves in the midst of the Beautiful Game – literally and figuratively so. You see, the street names reflect what happens on the pitch. If you were to visit a relative in Tsutsumani, you’d find yourself having to dribble past Defender Street, before having to dodge the rough Midfielder Street and then hope that Striker Street is fully open and pothole-free so that you can hit Goal Street without a tyre puncture. That’s what happened to me recently when I was dropping off my daughter at a relative’s house. For a moment I was so excited that I did not want to leave the “pitch” and drive home. I was happy when I had to go “back on the park” to fetch the little one. It really brought out the child in me.
Tsutsumani is located in the north
eastern fringe of Alexandra. It was built to house athletes and soccer players taking part in the 1999 All Africa Games after the dawn of democracy. The flats were used as the sporting village for the numerous sportsmen and women from Africa who participated in those Games. An agreement was reached that after the Games, it would accommodate poor communities of Alexandra. However, when the competition ended, the flats were handed over to the community for rental and have since been run down and are in desperate need of refurbishment.
Africa won the bronze medal in the men’s football tournament that year. Cameroon won gold while Zambia finished second. The tournament set the tempo for the Olympic Games that were scheduled for the following year in Sydney, Australia. The likes of Steve Lekoelea and Jabu Pule (now Mahlangu) had the whole of Mzansi eating out of their hands with the delicious brand of football they dished out at the All Africa Games. Other players that made a name for themselves in the tournament were Matthew Booth, Fabian McCarthy, Daniel Matsau and Junaid Hartley, to mention but a few.
Alfred “Maimane” Phiri is one of
Alexandra’s greatest professionals. He played for Bafana Bafana at the 1998 World Cup and many remember him shedding tears after he was redcarded for a shoulder charge against Denmark. He is a popular face and one of the most recognisable people in the township. Phiri also enjoyed a commendable career in Turkey where he played for Genclerbirligi, Vanspor and then Samsunspor. Upon his return to South Africa he ended his career at clubs such as Ajax Cape Town, SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows. He flashes a broad “Colgate” smile when asked about the comical names of streets in the area. “At first it was a bit bizarre and it took some getting used to,” says Phiri. “Imagine asking your friend for his street name and he says, ‘I live in Goalkeeper Street’. We’d say, ‘stop kidding’ before we remember that there is Tsutsumani village. “It’s a pity we have not had a lot of stars coming from that area, but the kids are soccer-mad and are always kicking a football on the streets. This is what makes our kasi unique and so passionate about the game.”
Nkosinathi Khwinike may not
have the glamourous football profile of Phiri, but was one of those who moved to Tsutsumani after the All Africa Games ended. He lives on Shinpads Street. “It was amusing at first,” he says. “We used to laugh and tease each other about the names. People from outside were always surprised and made jokes about our kasi. “I remember one day when I was opening an Edgars account and on the application forms I had to put in Shinpads Street. The guy behind the counter was not impressed and thought I was up to mischief or needed attention. “I had to explain the whole story to him and he still gave me a rather deadpan look. Even the postmen in the early days were a bit dumbfounded but, just like everyone, they got used to ‘our crazy world of football’ and life went on.” This rather peculiar occurrence has left a long-lasting legacy that will be cherished by generations to come, and we’re hoping that some great players of the beautiful game will come from this soccer-mad kasi. As Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe that football is a matter of life and death ... it’s much, much more important than that.” KO
(Above) Lekoelea turning on the style at the 1999 All Africa Games.