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Clinton Larsen on another David v Goliath mission

In full cry, coach Clinton Larsen barks instructions to his players from the touchline when he was in charge of Bloemfontein Celtic during the 2011 season. Picture: Lefty Shivambu, Gallo Images

In full cry, coach Clinton Larsen barks instructions to his players from the touchline when he was in charge of Bloemfontein Celtic during the 2011 season. Picture: Lefty Shivambu, Gallo Images

Published Mar 20, 2022

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FOR the umpteenth time in his career, as a player and coach at the highest level, Clinton Larsen has yet another football “Goliath” in his sights.

Given the many accolades Larsen has collected in his more than 30 years in the game, which includes two Premier Soccer League (PSL) titles and Bafana Bafana appearances, it's safe to say he knows a thing or two about slaying giants.

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Larsen the coach will pray that he is able to conjure, once again, a David-like temerity when he leads his ABC Motsepe League team, Summerfield Dynamos, into battle in a Nedbank Cup quarter-final match, in the coming weeks.

In full cry, coach Clinton Larsen barks instructions to his players from the touchline when he was in charge of Bloemfontein Celtic during the 2011 season. Picture: Lefty Shivambu, Gallo Images

Dynamos’ imposing opponents, Mamelodi Sundowns, are easily the most outstanding team in the PSL and possibly the best in Africa.

Nothing short of a Herculean effort will be required from Larsen’s lads against Sundowns, but he is confident Dynamos won’t “freeze” on the day.

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In fact, apart from two trophy-winning seasons as a player with another PSL giant, Orlando Pirates, in the late 1990s, Larsen has been at peace wearing the “underdog’” label.

“Besides Pirates, I have always played for teams considered underdogs, which were Tongaat Crusaders and Manning Rangers, a small team from Chatsworth where I won the PSL league title and earned Bafana Bafana call-ups.

Clinton Larsen, in the colours of Orlando Pirates, attempts to dribble past Mamelodi Sundowns’ Daniel Madau, with Warren Lewis looking on.

“I also coached smaller teams like Lamontville Golden Arrows, Chippa United, Maritzburg United, Polokwane City, and won the Telkom cup in 2012 with Bloemfontein Celtic.

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“I love those tags because it makes your victories sweeter,” he said.

Clinton Larsen with former Manning Rangers and Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker and Doctor Khumalo, a Kaizer Chiefs legend.

He’s chuffed about Dynamos’ progress in the Nedbank Cup.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the players to show what they can do,” he said.

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Larsen lauds the Nedbank format, which, at times pits teams from the amateur ranks against professionals.

Dynamos play in a league considered to be the third tier of South African football.

“Our game against Sundowns is a case of David versus Goliath. Every so often David pulls out his sling and drops the giant.

“Nobody gave us a chance to get this far, so we’ll keep on dreaming,” Larsen promised.

The club was formed in the 1970s by some parents and teachers at Summerfield Primary School in Bayview, Chatsworth and operated primarily in the amateur ranks.

“Not many people knew about Dynamos before, now the entire country does, and that has made me proud,” said Larsen, who joined about eight months ago.

Dynamos recently won the KwaZulu-Natal stream of their league and will compete in the national play-offs with other provincial winners for one of two available promotion slots in the National First Division.

Larsen has since changed Dynamos style of play. He also brought in a few players and he believes promotion would be a fitting tribute to the efforts of the club’s management, especially for having “proper administration and structure,” in place.

“That makes my job much easier,” he said.

Moira and Ernest Larsen have spurred their son Clinton past the gang-riddled suburbs of Wentworth to greater heights in football. Picture: Supplied

Larsen, who grew up in Wentworth, said he got his “winning mentality” from his now late parents, who were both accomplished sports people.

His father Ernest played professional football for Berea and Leeds in the old Federation Professional League, while his mother Moira achieved provincial colours at hockey.

“The desire to succeed and achieve on the football field was instilled by them,” he said.

Larsen recalled how as a 10-year-old he dreamed about playing football professionally, and to achieve that, he “trained every single day of my life”.

“Whether it rained or not, I trained because I wanted it so badly. People said I wouldn’t make it when I went for professional trials. My dad would say ‘prove them wrong’ and I did it through hard work and discipline,” he said.

Being quick on his feet was a hallmark of his play, and it also helped him to stay alive.

“I used to train at the Ogle Road ground near the oil refinery, which was a 20 minute walk to my home in Austerville. The stressful part was getting home afterwards because almost every street corner had a different gang on it. I had to carefully map my way home, fortunately I was a fast runner,” he said.

Larsen disagreed that his latest exploits with Dynamos was a reminder to the football community about his ability to coach.

“I am way past making a name for myself and impressing people. For me it is about being happy as a coach, at a place where I will be appreciated,” he said.

If it were about chasing money, Larsen said he would have considered offers from teams in the higher divisions.

“I believe in the Dynamos project, which is to get the club into the PSL in the next five years,” he said.

While he ranked highly Dynamos achievements, Larsen said his best ever moment in football was his first outing with Crusaders in the newly unified National Soccer League (NSL) at the Stanger Recreation Grounds, in 1991.

The Summerfield Dynamos team coached by Clinton Larsen. Picture: Supplied

“That was me finalising my dream. I had goosebumps being on the same field against Sundowns with players like Zain Moosa.

“This boy from Wentworth who had just finished school, was playing against people he saw on TV,” Larsen said.

CAREER PROFILE

CLINTON LARSEN: Age 51

PLAYING CAREER - POSITION: Midfield

CLUBS: Crusaders United 1991-1992

Manning Rangers 1992-1999, 2001-2003

Orlando Pirates 1999-2001

COACHING CAREER

CLUBS: Bloemfontein Celtic 2010-2013

Maritzburg United 2013

Roses United 2014

Bloemfontein Celtic 2014-2015

Lamontville Golden Arrows 2015-2018

Chippa United 2019

Polokwane City 2019-2020

CLINTON Larsen was completing his matric at Fairvale Secondary in Wentworth when he joined Tongaat Crusaders in 1989 as a player in the Federation Professional League (FPL).

Crusaders won the Osman Spices Knock-out Cup that year.

“I played alongside the great Lawrence Chelin, formerly of Durban City, goalkeeper Paddy Leering and others,” Larsen recalled.

The FPL and NPSL teams merged to form the National Soccer League (NSL) and the inaugural season for the new body was 1991-1992. Crusaders were given a NSL berth. Larsen moved to Manning Rangers the next season, but needed a high court ruling for that. “I was still a minor. My parents hadn’t signed my registration form and Crusaders wanted a transfer fee.

The loophole in the contract was me being a minor, and the club had no right to ask for a transfer fee was what the court ruled. I was free to leave. Ashwin Trikamjee was my lawyer,” he said.

AmaZulu also wanted his services, but he chose Rangers on his father Ernest’s advice. His fond Rangers memories were the home matches, played at the Chatsworth Stadium, mostly on Friday nights.

The Manning Rangers team that was coached by Shepherd Murape, (standing) in the 2001/02, the rest of the team included Orwin Castel, Liswa Nduti, Bradley Muir, Japhet Zwane, Antonio Trigo and Sipho Ndzuzo (captain). Front: Gilbert Mushangazhike (left), Lucky Maselesele, Clinton Larsen, Robbie Milne and Simon Makhubela.Picture: ENOS MHLONGO

“Teams were fearful of coming to Chatsworth. Our opponents always received a hostile reception but they treated us like gods. We loved them,” he said.

Larsen said nobody considered them PSL title contenders in 1996, especially after the 9-1 drubbing they received from Kaizer Chiefs in a CocaCola Cup match.

“Credit must go to people like Kaycee Reddy, Afzal Khan, Chicco Lazarus and Gordon Igesund – an astute coach – for making us very competitive.”

He said the team had a cosmopolitan feel.

“We had players like Mark Davies, Gavin Radford, Killer Hoosain, Ivan Selvanathan, Isaac “Shakes” Kungwane, David Modise, Dan Malisela, Pollen Ndlanya, Innocent Chikoya and other greats.”

He has fond memories of the 1993 friendly match against English Premiership team Manchester City at a filled to capacity Chatsworth Stadium.

The full-time score was 1-1 and Larsen had a hand in goal his team-mate, Gerson Arroe, scored.

At his 10-year anniversary with the club, his agent, Mike Makaab, auctioned the pair of boots City’s Steve Mcmahon wore in the 1993 game.

Another great Rangers memory was playing in the African Champions League, Larsen said.

He decided to “test the waters elsewhere” and joined Pirates in 1999, where he won another PSL title and other cup successes in two seasons. The Soweto Derbies (Chiefs versus Pirates) were “amazing occasions”.

“There would be 90000 fans. You couldn’t hear teammates on the field.”

His first Bafana Bafana association came in 1992 when Augusto Palacios was the coach.

“I was called for a camp and trained with players like Doctor Khumalo, Ace Khuse and Mark Williams.”

Other Bafana excursions saw him rub shoulders with players like Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids and the De Boer brothers.

He began coaching an amateur team, Chelsea, that his brother Carl played for while he was at Crusaders. His first formal coaching position was at Durban Stars in 2003.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

Related Topics:

KwaZulu-NatalFootball

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