FEATURE: 50 years of Soweto Derbies

By Matshelane Mamabolo Time of article published Feb 29, 2020

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NOT in his wildest dreams would Kaizer Motaung have imagined it all getting this big.

For Pete’s sake, back then it was nothing more than an act of petulance by a superstar angered by what he felt was bad treatment to his mates.

His decision to club with Ratha Mokgoatheng, Thomas Johnson and Edward Khoza who had been expelled from Orlando Pirates for having gone to play in Botswana without permission was more a solidarity act than anything else.

In the end though it has turned out to be one of local football’s most successful breakaways, his Kaizer Chiefs having grown into arguably the most supported club in the land.

And because of that, their rivalry with Pirates gave birth to the biggest match in South Africa if not one of the top five fiercest in Africa.

Today at the FNB Stadium which will be packed to the rafters with the 90 000 tickets having long been sold out, the two giants will take each other on for the first time in about five years in a league match with something seriously tangible at stake.

With both Chiefs and Pirates having generally performed poorly in recent years, their clashes have mainly been about preserving pride.

Not so today though. Not with Motaung’s Amakhosi sitting pretty atop the 16-team ABSA Premiership table and looking to bag maximum points so they can stay on course to celebrate their 50th Anniversary with the league title, and the Buccaneers in need of victory to remain in the championship scrap.

Yes, it has been half a century since Motaung returned from the United States, where he had turned out for Atlanta Chiefs, to find his three mates out in the cold due to having been expelled from the club.

HOW many of these famous faces do you recognise from this Kaizer Chiefs team from a bygone era... 1975 to be precise?

He could easily have just continued at Pirates where he was a huge favourite alongside the late Chippa Moloi who, ironically, had somehow avoided disciplinary action for having similarly gone to play outside the country like the trio.

Officially formed as Kaizer Chiefs in January 7 in 1970 after having played a few friendly matches around the country as Kaizer XI, Amakhosi got to play in the top league and were quick to make an impression - Motaung’s popularity as a Pirates star ensuring that a good number of The Ghost faithful followed him to his new club.

They probably wished they hadn’t though when Chiefs played Pirates for the first time ever on January 24 of that particular year.

In a third place play-off for the Rogue Beer Cup, the Buccaneers showed the upstarts who ruled the roost with a 6-4 win.

Ten goals in a single match. What a way to birth a rivalry!

The build-up to that historic clash had been epic, many referring to it as "Match of the Year" and the media terming it "Father and Son Clash" - a moniker the tie still carries to this day.

True to his flamboyant self then, Motaung even chartered Namibian star Pele Blaschke over to the country so he could play in that clash, the striker having returned home after being a part of the Kaizer XI.

Blaschke added spice to the match by proclaiming he would "tear the Pirates defence to shreds".

He did not though and instead it was Motaung who was particularly on song that day, no doubt eager to show Pirates just what they had lost out on. Notably, however, it was the performance of a teenaged Pule 'Ace' Ntsoelengoe that really caught the eye for the fledgling club. Ntsoelengoe, who has since died, went on to become an Amakhosi legend whose starring role as both conductor and soloist of the Chiefs game saw him scoring an incredible 19 Soweto Derby goals - a record that still stands to date.

Ntsoelengoe lasted decades at Chiefs and became a key cog in the side, particularly in the 80s. Interestingly, he later attempted a Motaung-type move when he left the Chiefs to form his own club, Ace Mates, which never really took off and he returned home and worked in Amakhosi’s development structures.

In time, the Soweto Derby grew so exponentially as to not only divide Orlando township but essentially the entire country. Families are known to be at serious loggerheads in the build-up to the clash and sometime thereafter.

The clash has produced legendary players since that January 24 day, the likes of Doctor Khumalo and Teboho Moloi immediately coming to mind.

The rivalries have also been legendary, the clash between Pirates striker Jerry Sikhosana and Chiefs goalkeeper Brian Baloyi having produced thrills over many seasons.

Who could ever forget the excitement provided by the likes of Pirates’ Steve Lekoelea and Benedict Vilakazi as well as Thabo Mooki and Jabu Pule of Chiefs over the years?

Kaizer Chiefs striker Siyabonga Nomvete (left) and Orlando Pirates defender Kamaal Sait fight for the ball during a PSL match in November 1999. Picture: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters

In recent years though, the Derby has lost some of its sting and star players of the match have been few and far between. The fact that no hat-trick has been scored since Sikhosana smashed Baloyi for three in the BobSave Super Bowl in 1996 perhaps talks to a lack of serious fire-power from the two sides, although some will see it as the clubs’ defences being more solid.

Today’s tie has the potential to thrill, what with Chiefs’ Leonardo Castro and Gabadinho Mhango of Pirates chasing the PSL’s Golden Boot.

Thrilling an event as it is though, the Soweto Derby has also been tragic and the deaths of fans in the Orkney and Ellis Park disasters as well as the recent ones at FNB Stadium will forever leave hearts heavy.

The security at these match has therefore since become of paramount importance and the PSL and hosting club leave nothing to chance

They will be visitors today, but you can bet Motaung and Chiefs will be out to mark the occasion of the 50th Anniversary celebration something particularly special, unlike that first ever match back in 1970 when Pirates showed them who was daddy.

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