An­other kind of street foot­ball

Kick Off - - FEATURE -

“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.

Team South

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.

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