Hi Pikes, it’s been such a long time since you graced the pages of Soccer Laduma. How’s things?
Ah, all good, Lunga. I’m now a development coach at Maritzburg United, working with the reserve side and the MDC team. I think having worked with coaches like Roger de Sa, Fadlu Davids and Ernst Middendorp helped me a lot. I’ve enjoyed it so far and, in fact, while still playing, I had my own development project on the side, which is still running from a school here in Maritzburg. It’s been in existence for a couple of years now… we’ve had the boys since nine years old and they are now 13 or 14. Surely in the next couple of years you’ll see some of them coming through. But there are coaches running that project and my main focus is Maritzburg United.
Let’s talk about the good old days, and start right at the beginning.
I got into Hellenic when I was 13 or 14. It’s funny how I made it into the senior team because, while playing for the U17 side, the right back in the U19 team got injured and the coach asked me to go and fill in for him. It happened so quickly! It wasn’t easy, but the senior players always made you feel welcome. It’s unlike today, where things are different. But they were a lot harder on us. I mean, you had your Andrew Tucker, George Moyo and all those guys. They made you feel like you were a youngster, but in a good way. You had to run around with the goalposts from one spot to another and all of that in record time, in case you were seen to be delaying your seniors. Moyo would check up on us every now and then at the academy and, with him, you would never leave a dirty plate after eating. He would come and find you, and then tell you, “Come and wash your plate.” Today’s players wouldn’t survive. Such experiences helped us grow quicker.
We always got up to mischief though, although I was never really part of it. The boys would play dice in the dorm. We got stipends every month for toiletries and, after ‘payday’, the lads would move the bed back and start playing. This continued until they got caught by academy head Mark Byrne, who wasn’t impressed at all! But it was clean, good fun. We never really got a chance with Moyo – he was always one up on us. I still feel it’s an area where we are lacking today – back then we had real leaders. This is not to disrespect today’s players, but that breed of leaders is no more in our game. Peter Petersen began his playing career at home province side Hellenic at 17, having graduated from their youth structures in 1998. He went on to enjoy a decent career, which included stints at Moroka Swallows and FC AK. It was in 2013/14, after a spell with Maritzburg United, that he decided his time on the pitch was up. As he recalls, “I just felt that’s it for me. You get to a point where, once you don’t enjoy it anymore, it becomes a problem. I also battled with injuries.”
Things have changed.
Back then, we never camped before games. You had your pre-match meal at home. I will never get enough of the memory that Albert Kometsi used to eat 12 slices of bread without fail and top it off with a two-litre Coke two to three hours before the game! Ha, ha, ha. I feel that if ever Gavin Hunt found out about that one, the brown stuff would have long hit the fan. To Kometsi’s credit, it always worked for him, as he never struggled during games. We had some good times, man. I also recall we once played at Hartleyvale Stadium against Super- Sport United… or was it still Pretoria City at the time? That was when the late Thomas Madigage was airlifted from the field to hospital. I got home after the game and some of my friends asked me, “Are you a murderer?” I was like, “What are these guys talking about?” It was only when I watched the replay of the game that I realised that I had gone into a tackle with Tommy and landed on top of him. What made it worse was that he had flu. Ha, ha, ha, my friends just never stopped teasing me about that one. I stayed a good four or five years at Hellenic, before Moroka Swallows came calling.
How was it at the Dube Birds?
It was completely different to Cape Town. There, you do well for a couple of games and the next time you walk in the street, people stop you and greet you. All of a sudden, everybody knows you. In such an environment, it was easy to get carried away, but because of the guidance I had received from the “senior” guys at Hellenic, I was always grounded. At Swallows, I shared a room with Abram Isaks, who was a good guy. The two of us were very close. We had some good times. He was also one of those guys who could be characters, but on the field, he meant business. I remember one time the two of us were coming from breakfast and we were walking back to our room. We were going to play Manning Rangers that same day. We were laughing and having a chat. As soon as we got into our room, we heard the phone ringing. It was a call from Viktor Bondarenko, our coach, ha, ha, ha. He said, “You two, come to my room now!” We were thinking to ourselves, “What now?” We walked into his room and… yho… the man blasted us! He said, “You are joking too much! You’ve got a game today, you need to be serious!” It’s safe to say that from then on we changed to game mode.
Tell us about the funny guys in the team.
You had George Lekgetho. Naughty Mokoena was always up to something. There was also the late Jokhonia ‘The Bull’ Cibi. I remember one day he was munching on ice cream while he was busy training with the rest of the team. Just imagine that, ha, ha, ha! He was a funny character. But, without taking anything away from the other guys, Cibi was something else as a player. He could control the game completely. Same with Junaid Hartley. I always heard people talking about this guy and I really didn’t understand why, until we played Golden Arrows the one time and I saw the full-blown Junaid Hartley. He was gliding past people. What he could do with the ball was unbelievable.
You later left for Maritzburg United.
Initially I didn’t want to come here, but Ian Palmer persuaded me, as I had a good relationship with him. The team had been relegated to the NFD. I arrived at the club and saw the players FL AS HB AC K! Best player I’ve ever faced: Too many to mention
Best player I’ve played with: Abram Isaks & Sipho Mngomezulu
Biggest pay cheque: Can’t remember now
Smallest pay cheque: R2 500
Favourite current player: Fortune Makaringe & Deon Hotto
Current occupation: Maritzburg United youth coach
Former teams: Hellenic, Moroka Swallows, FC AK, Maritzburg United there and my mind changed. I then had a chat with the chairman (Farook Kadodia) and Palmer. We had a good campaign that first season and we won promotion back to the PSL. We had a mixture of players from all sorts of backgrounds and I always say if you want to see the perfect Rainbow Nation, then this is the place to be, ha, ha. Middendorp was a perfectionist and he called it as he saw it. He was passionate about his job.
He had his moments though!
I remember one time we played AmaZulu in a cup game and they scored in the 89th minute. I think Fadlu was injured and I was made captain that day. I left the field early, just as the final whistle went. As I approached the change room, I heard Ernst shouting and there were no players there yet. I decided to turn back and let him calm down first. Yho, he was fuming! It was only at training the following day that the guys asked me what was going on, as they too were too scared of him at that moment. It was a silly goal that we had conceded and it was happening for the second time to us that season. To make matters worse, we played really well that day. Ernst was one of those guys that lived for football and you learnt so much from him. If I had met him earlier in my career, I would have turned out a completely different player. It was good working with him.