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“I received Blose’s package, well endowed.”
Abednego Netshiozwi, a street-smart defender in his heyday, started his PSL career at African Wanderers, whom he joined from lower league side Mabopane Young Masters in 2000. He also played for Ria Stars, Orlando Pirates and FC AK, before deciding to hang up his boots in 2010 after a spell with Dynamos. “I could see the sunset of my career on the horizon, because I moved from the PSL back to the NFD. I had to prepare for the future,” he remembers. Nowadays, the man known as ‘Tsotsi Number One’ is assistant coach at Buya Msuthu in the ABC Motsepe League, and the CAF B Licence holder boasts that they are unbeaten this season, after seven games so far.
Abednego, good to have you on this page this week. So African Wanderers is where it all started for you, right?
Yes. I was very happy when I signed for the team, as it was the realisation of a long-standing dream to play in the PSL. I stayed at Abaqulusi for two seasons and it was well worth it. The only problem is that when I got there, and being a lad from Pretoria, I struggled communicating in IsiZulu. During conversations, all I would offer to the table was, “Ehe, ehe.” He, he. The guys would say stuff in front of me and I would be none the wiser. However, as time went on, I became fully conversant in the language, and that was mainly due to the assistance of Tholomuzi Blose and Welcome ‘Mshini’ Mazibuko. I used to be in their company at most hours of the day, and whenever something was said that I couldn’t hear, I would ask them, “Bathini? Bathini? (What are they saying? What are they saying?)” Only to find out that, at times, that person was just greeting me, ha, ha, ha. Look, Wanderers was a nice team and the players used to stay at the flats in town. I remember we used to get paid by envelope. The late Mr (Vusi) Mkhize, club owner, would come bearing our cash. He would go from window to window, so to speak. He would open the window of your room slightly and ask, “Who’s this?” You had to say your name, after which he would hand you your envelope. Listen to this, I once pulled a fast one on him! Next to my hidden face, I decided to put the name of one of the experienced players in the team. So that when the unsuspecting Mr Mkhize was on the other side of the window, asking me to part with my name, I professed before God and man, “Tholomuzi Blose it is, Sir!” Ha, ha, ha. I received Blose’s package, well endowed. Sad to say my trick didn’t produce the desired result, because when the real Blose stood up, my face was enveloped in sadness. That aside, I had a blast...
It was my firstrst team inn thete eliteete league,eague likee I said. Do you remember my first game, which was against Mamelodi Sundowns? They beat us 5-1 and I scored our consolation goal. I couldn’t believe that I had just put one over John Tlale, whom I used to watch on TV. Whilst everyone was pulling faces in the dressing room after the game, I was the happiest of the lot, bragging about my exploits to everyone who cared to listen. This reminds me of our PRO at the time, Nhlanhla Sithole, who was a staunch Kaizer Chiefs fan. Whenever Amakhosi had to come to Durban to face us, he feigned sickness because he wanted to watch his beloved team on TV. One time we were going to play Chiefs up in Johannesburg and I was sitting next to him in the flight. He says to me, “He monna, Netshodwe, how are you going to be able to mark ‘Tsiki-Tsiki’ (Thabo Mooki)? He’s hot property!” To say that I was left speechless would be understating that moment.
Ha, ha, ha!
I shared a room with Mazibuko and stayed with Nhlanhla, also known as Alaska, and Solly Nketle. Seeing they were also from Jozi, it meant I could speak Sotho when I was wwitht tthem.em Butut thete guys were serseriousous there. t ere After training, the players would get into their cars and go home. It’s at Ria Stars where I found characters. I’m talking about the likes of Frank Makua, the late Thabang Lebese, Timothy ‘RDP’ Nkosi, Thembinkosi Biyela, Humphrey Mlwane, Thapelo Liau, Lucky Lekgwathi, Saul Molapo and Sidney Moshikaro.
Tell us more about those.
I had an advantage because Lekgwathi and Molapo are my homeboys, so I didn’t struggle much. I had also played with some of the guys in the NFD. I shared a room with Teko Modise, wet behind the ears then. Lebese, Nkosi and Makua were the funnier fellows there and you would always laugh in their company, while I also had a funny side to me since I was quite young. Our coach, Jacob Sakala, was fond of jokes. I remember a funny story about him, but it happened when I was at Dynamos. It was end of the month and he went to town. The club boss, Pat Malabela, phoned him and asked him, “Hey, Sakala, tell me, what’s happening there at training now?” Sakala responded, “Hey, boss, I’m taking these boys through their paces.” Ha, ha, ha, little did he know that Malabela was driving just behind him. Eish, uzohleka ebholeni (you’ll laugh in football)! I stayed there for one season, before the club was sold to the League, together with Free State Stars. That’s when Liau, Lekgwathi and I joined Pirates.
Oh, yes, we remember...
Bekugcwele (It was overcrowded), yho! When we got there, there must have been about 40 players. We found the likes of Josep Ngake, Bruce Ramokadi, Gerald Raphahlela, Edelbert Dinha, Jimmy Tau, Benedict Vilakazi and Joseph Makhanya there. But we got a nice welcome from the guys. Since Lekgwathi and I were dark in complexion, most of the guys thought we were foreigners. They would speak English with us, asking, “How are you guys?” One time. I just said, “Hey, Ngake, a bolele nna Sotho maan.” He was so surprised and said, “He banna! Batswa Pitori batho (Goodness me! They’re from Pretoria)!” I’m reminded of this one time when I was still at Wanderers and we played against Chiefs. I was marking Arthur Zwane, so ‘Skhokho’ (Cyril Nzama) told him, “Arthur, awuqede leli gogogo (have a go at him).” They were so shocked to hear me responding in Sotho. I said, “Ja, ke a utlwa (I can hear you).” At Pirates, we were like a family. After games, we would go out, have braaied meat somewhere and talk about the mistakes we made in the game. We had fantastic team spirit and that’s why we won games under Kosta Papic. kakhulu (We loved each other a lot). There was no jealousy and there was healthy competition. Every Wednesday we used to play 11 v 11 games and it was really tough there. I wouldn’t care that Makhanya was my friend, I would kick him to pieces because I wanted to be in the team. I used to tell him, “Duku-Duku, you want to dribble me? Okay, I will kick you. I can see you don’t want to play on the weekend.” No sooner had I said that than he would sprint to the other side, having changed positions. Then I would relax, ha, ha, ha. Steve Lekoelea would then come to my side, but I knew he was scared of being tackled.
One time we were having breakfast. Lekoelea came late and the coach asked him, “Steve, why don’t you greet me?” He responded, “Coach, I groot you!” Ha, ha, ha, the guys laughed so hard, yho. The late Gift Leremi was a good boy and I played with him on the left. He had his moments and we used to call him ‘Sgwamanda’. If you saw him holding the steering wheel while driving, it looked as if he was ready to take it out of its position – that’s just how strong he was. Sometimes you would be driving with him in your car, and he would bring his CDs and play his music as if it was his car, ha, ha, ha. That boy was a character.
‘Tsotsi’ Number One’, thanks for reminding us about the good old days.
Ngiyabonga nami (Thank you). I had a good career. The one person that really gave me a tough time was Rowan Hendricks of Ajax Cape Town. Whenever we were travelling to Cape Town, the guys would tease me about it, asking me, “Do you know Hendricks? He will make you run!” But one time they took him off in the first half and I was the one now teasing my teammates...