Torch-bearer, icon, a remarkable person. Those are some of the ways Fani Madida and Neil Tovey described their former boss, Kaizer Chiefs chairman Kaizer Motaung, on Tuesday as the ‘Big Chief’ celebrated his 74th birthday on Tuesday.
Motaung began Kaizer Chiefs on January 7, 1970, naming the club after his former team Atlanta Chiefs, from the North American Soccer League.
He played as a striker for Orlando Pirates in the 1960s, impressing at a trial to play in the US. Motaung eventually returned home, and after trying to solve a problem between players and management at Pirates, he began the Kaizer XI in 1969, and a year later established a proper club – the Kaizer Chiefs we know today.
Two of the stalwarts from the 1980s and 1990s, Madida and Tovey, paid tribute to Motaung on the Chiefs website on Tuesday.
“Happy birthday, Kaizer. Thanks to the almighty God for keeping this icon up to now, as our country needs torch-bearers like him,” former striker Madida said.
“(He) excelled as a player and an administrator. He founded Kaizer Chiefs in 1970, and look what an institution the club has become. Others have been trying to copy Amakhosi’s success, but nobody has been equal to the task.
“As a person, Kaizer is the epitome of an immensely successful person, who has stayed humble. It’s easy to have a chat with him, and he understands the man in the street. He’s far from aloof. Kaizer is a man of the people.
“It’s that personality that has attracted so many people to Kaizer Chiefs and that’s why the club always plays at home, even when playing on the road, because of the immense support it attracts countrywide.
“Kaizer is the glue that keeps the supporters and the club together.”
Ex-captain and defender Tovey added: “People always say that a person gets wiser and wiser with each birthday, which would mean that we can still expect a lot of the man who founded Kaizer Chiefs.
“Kaizer built an empire, as that’s what the club is. It must be extremely pleasant for him to see how everything came together after the club was founded on 7 January 1970. Because when Kaizer Chiefs started, he probably never realised how big the club would become.
“Kaizer is a remarkable person and I wish that he will continue and continue to contribute to South African football. I wish him a healthy year, as that’s what is important in life.”
Motaung has made Chiefs into the biggest club in South African football, but he will hope for a change in fortunes on the pitch after three trophyless seasons under Steve Komphela.
He has brought in Italian Giovanni Solinas this season, and after missing out on the MTN8 title, Chiefs’ next chance of silverware is in the Telkom Knockout.
The Amakhosi will face Black Leopards in a last-16 clash on Sunday at 3.30pm at the FNB Stadium.