CAPE TOWN – A man with great flair and finesse. Stylish. A hero. And the wonderboy of the Bo-Kaap.
Those were just some of the ways in which Fagmie Solomons, rugby and cricket player extraordinaire, was described by his peers and others at a function in his honour organised by the Saru Sacos Legends at the old Hewat College in Crawford last Saturday.
Solomons, now 60, thrilled the non-racial sporting fraternity with his exploits with the oval ball and the red leather cherry at venues such as the Green Point Track, Athlone Stadium and City Park during the late 1970s and throughout the 80s as a flyhalf and scrumhalf for Western Province and the Saru national team, and a batsman for the WP Cricket Board.
Over 400 people attended the event to reminisce about Solomons’ exalted career, played out against the harrowing backdrop of apartheid.
The theme throughout the evening’s proceedings was the fact that while Solomons and his ilk were being celebrated for their skills on the field, it was all part of a bigger fight for liberation off it.
The famous Sacos (South African Council on Sport) slogan of “No normal sport in an abnormal society” was repeated several times on the night, with Solomons among those heroes of the anti-apartheid sporting movement who refused to “cross over” to the whites-only SA Rugby Board led by Danie Craven.
But the man himself was feted for his ability with bat and ball, with several revered contemporaries such as Francois Davids, brothers Aslam and Nazeem Toefy, Peter Jooste, Omar “Vleis” Daniels, Faiek “Blatjang” Hendricks, Ebrahim “Kang” Solomons and many others from rugby, and from cricket, the likes of Abdurrahman “Lefty” Adams and Beresford Williams in attendance at the gala dinner.
Davids is also the deputy president of SA Rugby, and president Mark Alexander also managed to make his way to Crawford later in the evening from the Cape Town Stadium, where he was hosting international officials at the Cape Town Sevens.
“If it wasn’t for apartheid, Fagmie Solomons would’ve played for the South African rugby team and would’ve represented the country all over the world,” Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels said.
The organiser of the Saru Sacos Legends, Angelo Arendse, added: “Fagmie was stylish, he had time on his hands and made the guys around him look good. He is a very down-to-earth man, and from what I’ve heard from meetings we’ve had, one of the guys said he went to Fagmie’s sports shop in Wynberg and wanted to buy something.
“Fagmie told him, ‘Leave your money, man. Take the best because you must be at your best on the field on Saturday’. Now, that is the kind of man we want to remember and honour.”
Lefty Adams remembered both Solomons’ rugby and cricket performances.
“As a young man, when you played, I was already 38 and retired. But I remember how you behaved on the field – you were a gentleman, and how you handled your forwards! Guys like Aslam them covered you a lot!
“Cricket-wise, he played with me in quite a few provincial games and he came to Primroses. A very honourable and sincere man, a very dedicated man, his mannerisms… I take my hat off to him for always honouring me and respecting me, and the way he conducted himself on and off the field.
“A good batsman and a good fielder, also a grafter. He always came to me and said ‘Cappy, can’t you jack that guy up, what’s wrong with him’! And then I had the policy of ‘fine to fine’, which was running 100 metres from fine leg to fine leg after every over for a whole hour! That’s how I started to grind them.
“And today Fagmie, you gave me the pleasure to, in our final game, honour you and may you and your family be blessed. Shukran.”
Davids remembered the lighter side of Solomons. “Fagmie is an old friend of mine. But sometimes him and Ebrahim ‘Kang’ Solomons phone me and say they don’t have airtime! But they forget that there is five cents airtime too!
“Thank you to Fagmie’s family for what you have done in his life, to give back to the community in sport. You supported him, and please still support him.”
Alexander said that Solomons had made “history” when he captained the Saru team against Namibia in Windhoek in 1987. “It is my privilege to honour a true South African legend, Fagmie Solomons. In 1987, he captained the Saru national team against Namibia in a moment of history.
“It was the first time that a non-racial Saru team played an international Test outside the borders of South Africa. He led his team to victory in the final, 72-3.
“Fagmie is a legend today for his powerful contribution to rugby over many years. But his leadership in sport started long before that. As a small child, he excelled in rugby, soccer and cricket, and became known as a ‘wonder boy’ in his community.
“Thank you Fagmie for your excellence and leadership, both in the days gone by and in the days to come. You are a true living legend, and I personally hope that you can help me and the legends in the coming years.”
WP Cricket Association president Beresford Williams recalled the time Solomons was part of the memorable “42” game in the then-Howa Bowl.
“Having played with and against you, you have been a great ambassador for the game. You were a man with great flair, you had the finesse. And you were a main cog in that dream team of Western Province in the famous Elfindale game where Lefty Adams told Eastern Province that they would be bowled out for 42, his age!
“I want to salute the organisers for putting this function together to start recognising our stalwarts, our greats and our living legends, and to remember those that have gone before us. Like I said in the foyer, it is better late than never.
“It is time that we start to honour and recognise our greats. We can’t wait on someone else to do it. And I hope this will be the start of great things to come.”
Solomons was reduced to tears during his speech, especially in acknowledging his family, but he also enjoyed the acclaim, in typical flyhalf fashion. “I love this! Everybody is looking at me!
“I’ve done many honours, from primary school up to representing the South African Rugby Union and Western Province Cricket. But I must be honest, I’ve never felt this way because this occasion is very unique as I’m being honoured for my contribution to rugby and cricket.
“I want our kids to play team sports rather than individual sports, so that they can interact with other children of different denominations – whether you’re rich or poor, green or yellow.
“And that is the main reason for sport, as that changed me, and so many of our great legends present here. It’s so wonderful to reminisce and laugh with my former teammates and opponents about what happened not too long ago.
“I am standing here with a lump in my throat, and have to pinch myself that it’s really happening. Is this all for me? It is, but of course, I didn’t get to here alone. This tribute is for each and every one of you for being part of my life. Thank you very much.”