Defender Vukile Mnqgibisa reveals many hidden secrets of the AmaZulu dressing room as he gives us the lowdown – and the dirt – of all his Usuthu teammates.
We bring back an old KICK OFF favourite, beginning with KwaZulu-Natal club AmaZulu as defender Vukile Mnqgibisa reveals the dirt on all his teammates
“Gee” is a big guy who loves small cars for the sake of saving petrol. I wonder how long it takes him to drive home in those tiny cars that he drives. He lives on a tight budget and doesn’t want to waste a cent. Even the way he dresses tells of a man who doesn’t care a bit about how he looks. He wears anything and everything, even clothes from Mr Price. “Gee” loves to swear. The word “mother-f#@ker” comes out of his mouth in every sentence he utters. When he greets you in the morning he swears, when he gives out instructions he swears. To him we are all “mother-f#@ kers” – using that swear word is now just a part of him by nature. He is overjoyed now that his fellow countryman Ovidy is with us at the club, which allows them to speak in their home language.
The man who uses snuff – you know the snuff usually used by grandmothers? I think he needs to explain to us why he uses snuff. All he ever talks about is his wife and child. For me that is a sign of a man who is genuinely in love with his family. Everything involves “my wife this” and “my child that”. I think he is really lonely here in Durban because his family is in Gauteng. He hasn’t been cutting his hair of late because he is saving money for his child’s lunch box. Every cent counts for him.
He is new in the team after joining us from Thanda Royal Zulu, but I have already noticed that he is friends with everyone. I think the fact that he is from Durban is why he is already so comfortable.
Respect comes in buckets with this guy. He is also very disciplined. From the way he respects everyone, you can tell he was brought up in a proper family environment with principles. He always makes sure that he greets everyone every morning before training. The way that he is so respectful is actually scary and unheard of for a football player, especially a goalkeeper. He is known as “De”.
I have never seen someone who is so afraid of cats like this
guy. You know us black people and being superstitious: a black cat is seen as bad luck, but to him just the sight of a cat scares the hell out of him. During pre-season when we were at a lodge for a pre-season camp, he ran on top of a table after he saw a cat! I think the trouble is that he grew up in the rural areas somewhere in the Eastern Cape, so that is why he is so superstitious. If l had to lock him up in a flat with a cat and throw away the keys, he would probably jump out of the window!
I have heard Pule saying “Shoes” [Gumede] has been 20 years old for the past four years, which is why I refer to him as a young old man. He is addicted to tattoos, though most of them don’t make sense to me. His whole body is full of tattoos. The trouble with him is that he is very secretive.
They call him Iwele (twin) because he has a lookalike twin brother Philani who plays for Uthongathi FC in the First Division. His twin brother also has a big head like him and also plays in the same position. These guys look so alike that they could get away with cheating by having one play the first-half and the other the second-half. What is also confusing is that they are always together, they dress the same way all the time and have similar voices. I am told this is actually the first time that they have had to play for different teams. I pity their girlfriends because these are the kind of guys that can get away with dating the same girl without her realising it!
He is a Muslim and a man true to his religion. You know those prayers that Muslims have at midday on Friday, he always makes sure that he goes. He really takes his religion seriously. The word kwerekwere (derogatory term for foreigner) has stuck to him like a bee, though he now calls me kwerekwere whenever he sees me. Whoever told him that word started a problem – that is all he ever says to me. He hangs out with Darpoh and they frequent these West African restaurants together here in Durban.
He is mischievous by nature. You know those little naughty kids who are always in trouble because they just enjoy having fun? That is Sikhakhane for you. One day when we were in camp he arrived late for breakfast wearing those old school pyjamas – a shirt and trousers. Since that day everyone now understands why he always asks for an iron when we go into a hotel, because he always wants to iron his sleepwear. He is also known as Hembe (shirt) since that day when he walked in with those pyjamas. Sikhakhane is also known as “Rambo” because he wanted to beat up Katlego Mashego during a pre-season friendly against Chippa United. Being the rural-bred guy he is, Sikhakhane was ready to throw punches right away. Such was the aggressive look on his face that Mashego ended up coming to him after the match to apologise. Oh, by the way, he is also always at the end of jokes belittling where he comes from – Ulundi – and the fact that he is the only footballer from there to play in the PSL.
Guys that are new usually don’t give away much when they’ve just arrived, so it means we must wait. I have noticed that he tends to hang out with Ovidy, maybe it is because they know each other from their days at Kaizer Chiefs. I also think they stay in the same area here in Durban because they always travel together in Ovidy’s car. They call him “Starter”.
All I know about this guy is that he is new in the team, stays at the clubhouse and travels in the team bus. It is really difficult to get to know much about these kind of guys because you only see them at training. I also know that he is from Limpopo because he speaks sePedi.
Ever heard of a heavy eater? This is one guy who knows what it means to destroy food. He has such a huge appetite that I suspect he doesn’t just eat for one person – I think he eats for three! Such is his craving for food that he even eats at night. When we are in camp he always goes back to the room with another plate of food so that he can eat again after a while. Maybe this guy has worms in his stomach which take away all the food that he eats. He makes it no secret that he hates being hungry. He has also come through the club’s development. I have heard people referring to him as “Pelembe”.
He has been nicknamed “Jomo” because he used to play for Jomo Cosmos. What I know for sure is that he is short tempered – he gets angry within seconds for anything and everything. So when dealing with him, be warned that he will get really angry and you won’t like it.
“Majaivana” doesn’t talk much but loves dancing, so that is why he has this nickname. I think he can easily become a dancer when his football career ends. Rarely do you find a guy with a body as flexible as his in football. Others call him “Shaker” because he really knows how to shake his body. He also lives such a simple lifestyle, so much so that all he does is come to training and go home afterwards. Just like me he is also a man of God and is a regular churchgoer. He goes to a Pentecostal church with live
bands, I think it is called Conversion of Fire.
“Tsotsi” thinks he is a gangster. He always talks about the prison gangs. You know the 26s, the 27s and the 28s. If you listen to how passionate he talks about those gangs, you think he may have actually been to prison before. Being from Umlazi I think he usually hangs with guys that have actually been in prison who tell him about stories to do with all these number gangs. He is from the club’s development and the best thing is that he listens and wants to improve his game.
This boy is also part of the group from the clubhouse that is always together. I call him “Mr Discipline” because that is what he is all about. If he is naughty, then he does those things away from us.
Samuel Mensah Darpoh
Sam is Akoriko’s right-hand man because they are both from West Africa. The guy is loud when he talks, but hates noise. I mean you know how loud West Africans are. Just get two of them in the same place and you will get the true definition of what it means for people to be irritatingly loud. Sam is also a young old man who is still a teenager. They are forever young in West Africa.
The one who thinks he is a charmer, a ladies’ man. Just why he thinks he is a charmer remains a mystery because he never comes out with any catch from the opposite sex. This guy loves speaking English as if he grew up in the suburbs, yet he has spent all his life in Tembisa. Do you know that he is part of the group of players that took Moroka Swallows to its deathbed by getting the club relegated in consecutive years? [Laughing] Apparently he adores a player from another local club here, but unfortunately I am not allowed to mention the name. That player is also from Limpopo and has a surname that is almost similar to Augustine’s.
[Laughing] This guy has too many nicknames. On some days he is “Macaroni” while on other days he is “Biltong”, “Spaghetti” or “Mosquito”. Anything that is thin can be Ovidy’s nickname because that is how he is. He has little flesh on his body. He looks like a pair of skinny jeans. Strangely, despite being so thin, Ovidy has a huge appetite. With the way he eats he has hopes of gaining weight. He always eats this pap made by some ladies from Zimbabwe in central Durban. If you eat that pap you will not have another meal until the next day because it makes you so full. I wonder what they add to that pap. Whenever I feel like saving I always go and eat there because if you eat in the morning then you won’t eat again for the rest of the day. Just how Ovidy never gains weight remains a mystery to me.
Our Mlungu is always serious about work. He is the kind of guy who comes to work and then heads straight back home immediately afterwards all the time. His routine is such that he is programmed. Being a white man, he would never stay at the clubhouse because there would be a serious breakdown in communication. Those guys there have serious limitations with the English vocabulary. He is one of those footballers who lifts. I have noticed that he gets angry when you dribble him at training. If you dribble him he never shies away from coming back again and again— you should see how aggressive he gets! He genuinely loves his job and his family. He looks lonely because I don’t think his family is with him for now.
This guy calls everyone “baba wami” (my father). He doesn’t even need to know your name, he will just call you “baba wami”. Since he is also new in the team, he is yet to expose himself character wise. All he ever does is stick with JB [Jabulani Ncobeni]. He is like his shadow.
“Rasta” is reserved … really reserved. I am actually not even sure what kind of rasta he is. Some days they call him “Bob Marley”, while on other days he is Lucky Dube. He says he used to cut his hair, but then thought it better to keep it to avoid spending money every time he visited the barber shop.
What I know is that he stays at the clubhouse and hangs with that group of players who always like to stick together. Those players always move as a group and they are so noticeable because when they have money they are always at the mall shopping for clothes. They always provide evidence that there is money in the bank. That group is also so noisy, so I always make sure I avoid them when I see them at the mall. They have that high school kids kind of vibe of togetherness.
The one thing that I have noticed about “Mjeiza” is that he prefers laughing instead of talking. He only opens his mouth to laugh. Though “JB” is still new in the team, there is absolutely no way you will miss his step overs on the field. When he gets the ball he must put a bit of sugar on the ball first before he releases it to someone else. They say he is Jezibel!
Our Lionel Messi! But he is only known as Messi when he has the ball. Without the ball, he reverts back to being “Shorty” because he is nowhere to be seen as he is the shortest in the team. He is so short that I have to be on my knees when we have that circle during prayers. Being as short as he is, he goes to the kids department when shopping for clothes. I think he actually wears size four boots and I have noticed that most brands don’t make original boots in those sizes. It is only replica boots, you know the type usually used by kids.
“Bhele” is the most senior citizen in the team who is forever talking about the need for discipline because it is his wish for all of us to have careers stretching as long as his. It is always about discipline with him, both on and off the field, but then he also wants to laugh at his own jokes. He is also forever on the phone talking business or communicating with his family. I think if you take away his phone, he won’t survive a day! But he strangely hates Whatsapp with all his life! If you mention Whatsapp or social media to him, he will make it known to you that he doesn’t do that nonsense, yet he has a smartphone. I have noticed he drives different cars almost all the time.
[Laughing]. “Zaza” is bad news. He talks rubbish all the time. I have actually never heard him say anything that makes sense and everyone in the team knows that the only time he is serious is when he is on the field. I can bet my last cent that he will never respond appropriately if you ever ask him anything. Yet the interesting thing is that there is no one in the team who can say they don’t like him. He also likes everyone the same way because he has no secrets. To him we are all the same, whether you are from Ghana or Johannesburg. He is also the only person that I know who is always online on Whatsapp – I mean all the time. If you spend time with him he will mock you about the fact that you never receive calls on your phone, so much so that you end up sending a ‘please call me’ to people just so that they call you. Once you are on the phone he will listen attentively, especially when you are talking to your girlfriend, and then start laughing at you for being a softie and romantic. He likes acting like he knows every verse in the bible, yet he knows nothing. He is also known as “Bhubesi” (lion) for his fighting spirit on the pitch and the way he loves training. Do you know that he does road work from Durban to Pietermaritzburg every morning? He and Bhele are so old school – they don’t mind doing road running every day. I think he is the only player that I know who keeps balls and cones in his car. Do you know that whenever he finds an open space he just starts training? While popping into his car recently I found those huge cast iron pots and big spoons used at weddings and funerals.
One thing about this guy is that if he gets a chance, he scores. The way that he is so respectful proves he was brought up in the rural areas. You won’t believe the way he is so respectful when he addresses people. He is a true Zulu man to the core. He calls everyone “Mcuphi” and that is now his nickname. I have noticed that he always prefers to keep away from anyone that speaks English, and so never gets anywhere close to a white man. He always tries by all means to avoid Michael Morton for the sake of avoiding speaking in English. I wonder what would happen if they shared a room in camp …
I am sure this dude is nicknamed “Balotelli” because he is tall and dark, plus he is a striker. He is new in the team and so hasn’t really come out of his shell as yet. When a player is new they usually first keep to themselves before eventually exploding after a few months, so I am sure this is what will happen with Balotelli. He must live up to that nickname both on and off the field. You can’t be Balotelli and have no drama around you.
You should definitely know why he is referred to as hosi ya mina. Just one look at him and you will know that he is Shangaan. I am sure you know what I mean [laughing]. This guy is always well dressed and thinks he is a clever Shangaan. You don’t even need to ask why he is known as the “Beast”. Two minutes on the pitch and you will understand, because he uses his body to good effect and presses defenders like a rampaging elephant when he marks. As a defender you will feel him when you mark him. He is built like a West African and if there is one thing that he enjoys it is taking shots at goal. Though he is new here, I know him well as we played together at Jomo Cosmos.
Mngqibisa [right] with teammates, Tapelo Nyongo [left] and Ovidy Karuru after a 1-0 league encounter victory over Free State Stars at King Zwelithini Stadium.