Say the word Greyville and most people familiar with it will come up with a mental picture of race horses. But for the lads with deep roots in the suburb, sporting memories are more to do with football.
“We were one big football family,” Richard Musso told The Independent on Saturday ahead of a nostalgic walk by Greyville kids of the 1950s and 1960s of their old neighbourhood, scheduled for June 12.
Veteran football and educator Les Stanley added: “We all had humble roots. We all had to make our own entertainment. You got a soccer ball for your birthday and you kicked it ‘stukkend’.”
If Greyville kids weren’t playing the streets, they did so in Sutton Park, at the nearby military airport, the present Natal Mounted Regiment headquarters across the road from Moses Mabhida Stadium, or at Juventus, near Currie’s Fountain, or Kingsmead. They would take shortcuts over the railway lines to get there.
“We would steal biscuits from the café to have the energy to get there,” chirped Bert le Clos, father of the swimming champion, Chad.
“Later in life, I went into business with the café owner and he stole all that money back,” said Le Clos.
He called the Greyville community the “poorest of the poor”.
“We didn’t even have a car when my dad died and I never owned a pair of boots, but we were trillionaires. The standard line was, ’if you messed with one Greyville ‘oke’, you messed with them all’.”
Many professional footballers have come out of Greyville. Names like Des Horn (Wolves), Chicken Price (Durban City), Alistir (SPELLING CORRECT) McLean (Durban City), Erroll Mann (Durban Celtic), Ronnie Mann (Durban United), Johnny Sinclair (Durban United), Barry and Alan Jay (Durban City) and Vicky Dare (Durban United).
The boys of Greyville came from different ancestries: Italian in the case of Musso, Mauritian in the case of Le Clos and, others, English. One soccer tournament was an “international”.
“They would play the national anthems,” recalled Louis Arde who, like Stanley, in later life made his mark in both football and education and played “for Mauritius” at the event.
“I had a cousin who weighed 178kg and was as tall as he was wide. When he heard the Mauritian anthem, he just burst out crying,” said Le Clos.
Rugby followed at high school, the one attended by most Greyville boys having been Mansfield. Those who made it big include Stanley Holmes (Natal) and John Nortier.
On the running front, Greyville can lay claim to Comrades legend Boysie van Staden.
Musso added that the community was mixed and multiracial.
“Police even stopped us from playing football with one another,” said Musso, referring to games he played with Indian friends.
Joe Nadar, whose home was in the Indian-designated Magazine Barracks that housed municipal workers, said everyone being as poor as everyone else made for racial harmony. “When you get that, it’s like everyone understands and respects one another. You could walk through Greyville safely.”
He said growing up there was “a tough life”.
“From the age of eight, my grandfather would take me to Addington on a Sunday to sell newspapers.”
Nadar said that while football was popular, golf stood out more in his mind. He and his mates were introduced to the sport as caddies at the Durban Country Club. However, his father was one of few people in the community who owned a set of golf clubs.
“Young guys would borrow them. They would tee off at 4.30am when it was still dark and had to be off the course by 7.30am when the secretary of the club would arrive. Each player had only one ball and, trust me, they would play incredible golf because they could never lose sight of that ball on the fairway or in the rough.”
Every game involved betting.
Horse racing was part of their lives too.
Arde recalled how legendary horse trainer David Payne – also a Greyville boy – once demanded a rand from everyone in a football team because he knew a certain horse, In Full Flight, would win.
“We each won R7.50. We were rich,” he said.
The June 12 walk will start at 9am from the car park of the Durban Bowling Club. It will end around 11am and be followed by a function. For further information, call Louis Arde on 083 791 5165.
Independent on Saturday