Wits sale leaves Mogotsi ‘without a family’
Veteran admin feels betrayed to lose the only job he’s ever known
The sale of Bidvest Wits came as a surprise to many, but to George Mogotsi it was a seismic shock that he finds difficult to accept to this day.
Mogotsi, a veteran football administrator, called Wits a home for nearly four decades. Making it even more painful for him is he was unable to bid a proper farewell to his Wits family as he was not with the club in the bio-bubble when they took one final journey to their total extinction.
“I have been watching on TV,” Mogotsi said. He last attended a Wits match in March, when they drew 0-0 at home to Chippa United.
Even he couldn’t have imagined that, after being a permanent fixture in the Clever Boys’ set-up from when he joined as a security marshal in the mid80s, he would wake up to news that the oldest club in SA football would be gone.
“There had been rumours since lockdown began, that our club would be sold. My son showed me an article which reported this.
“I told him I knew nothing about it. But when the rumours kept on being reported every day, I became very worried.”
Phone calls to the club’s hierarchy and colleagues could not confirm any sale of the club, and Bra George continued to believe the rumours were just that rumours with no foundation.
After all, he had seen the team go through ups and downs. These included cup triumphs, with the zenith reached in 2017 when Gavin Hunt led them to a historic first league championship.
The lows included relegation in 2005, but for Bra George, nothing could be more devastating than confirmation that the club’s status had been sold to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM).
The bad news was delivered by club chair Alan Fainman who had been delegated by Bidvest to assume the position after the departure of Brian Joffee in 2017.
“We were called to a meeting, myself, Gavin Hunt and Jonathan Schloss and Alan told us the news. He reasoned Bidvest were disinvesting in all sports and that an offer had been accepted from TTM. We barely said a word.”
It was on a chilly Tuesday, June 16, when Bra George started to face the reality that a club to which he had dedicated most of his adult life would soon be extinct. Still, he didn’t want to believe it.
“Wits has been like a family to me. I was a security guard here in 1984. We had to man gates and secure money from gate-takings, which was used to pay referees in cash immediately. It wasn’t a lot of money, but when Kaizer Chiefs or Pirates came, we knew we would get something decent. Football really battled for income at the time.”
Bra George progressed to be the team driver, a task he took on in the mid-90s on the recommendation of former Wits boss professor Ronnie Schloss, whom he regards as a father figure and has singled out for high praise.
“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Prof Schloss. He did everything for me. He paid for my driving licence fees so I could drive the team bus.
“He taught me how to write player contracts and work permits. More than anything, his family became mine as well.
“I knew his son Jonathan [who was the club’s COO] from when he was nine years old, then we worked together at the club. When my mother passed on, they came to the funeral.
“When Jonathan was getting married, I was there. I know his brother Neil very well too.”
As the now 59-year-old watched from afar when Wits attempted to win the league in the final stages of the season, reality started to sink in that the home fixture he had attended against Chippa back in March was his last.
Wits finished fourth in the standings, pipped on goals scored by Orlando Pirates to a place in the CAF Confederation Cup.
They will be replaced by TTM next season in the top league, the name Wits permanently fading into oblivion in SA football circles. This is what hurts Bra George the most.
“Tomorrow, September 12, we would have turned 99. It’s incredible that effectively we no longer exist. I have seen so many players come through our development.
“Today those players are family men. I guided them from our under-6 team. It’s heartbreaking, but there’s nothing we can do.”
Except that Mogotsi believes something should be done to avoid a scenario where a club as rich in history as Wits can be erased at the drop of a hat.
“Our football authorities should not allow this, where someone who has R40m, R50m comes in and buys a club.
“Only people who have passion for the game should be allowed to invest in the game. If you truly want to belong in football, why don’t you start at the amateurs and move up?
“I saw Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono play football. Today they own clubs that they worked hard for.
“I know Irvin Khoza from his days as an Orlando Pirates cashier and then junior secretary. People see these club bosses today and think they can be like them by slashing R50m on a status.
“It doesn’t work like that. It takes years of sweat and tears,” Mogotsi said.
His tears are unlikely to dry soon, if ever.
People who have passion should invest in football