Bafana legend pens his life story
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By Tshepo Mvulane Moloi
A somewhat sparse yet upmarket crowd gracefully congregated, at the enthralling premises of The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, on Wednesday evening, on September 1, to attend the book launch of former Bafana Bafana striker Mark Williams’ autobiography, provocatively titled From Gangster to Soccer Legend.
Besides the expected attendance of Williams and his close- knit family, which comprised of his one-year-old daughter, his wife and her mother.
From the cohort of fellow soccer players, the list includes Williams’ former South African national teammates, namely, Thurston Sean Bartlett (a former striker and current assistant manager at TS Galaxy), Theophilus Doctorson Khumalo, popularly known as Doctor (former midfielder maestro and current member of the technical staff at Baroka Football Club), Jimmy Tau (former Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs defender and current soccer analyst) and Dikgang ‘Terminator’ Mabalane (former Moroka Swallows right winger).
Other notable figures included Glyn Binkin (an erstwhile soccer agent), Robert Marawa (sport journalist) and Douglas Ramaphosa (Chairman of Mnotho Consulting).
Douglas Ramaphosa informed the sparse audience, that as Mnotho Publishers, they are very proud to present Williams’ life-story, as one of South Africa’s living soccer legends.
He also clarified that this first autobiography, ought to be placed on record as a kick-starter to imminent commemorations by Mnotho Publishers, of as many members that comprised the Bafana Bafana squad, who were triumphant in lifting the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), on home soil, in 1996.
The public must thus watch this space, for which player will be featured next. A detailed technical review of this book, will be left to others. However, my impression of the book, is that, it can be classified as a coffee-table book, in contrast to any academic inclined texts: its easily accessible colloquial narrative style and selected use of footnotes or endnotes, sets it apart from scholarly autobiographies or biographies.
In contrast, the latter would amid others have tedious footnotes, an index and a bibliography. The effort made of uploading available pictures, to assist the reader to visualise the various sites, at the end of each chapter, further supports my categorising of Williams’ book, as a coffee table book.
The gist of what is entailed in Williams’ autobiography, which is divided into nine chapters, is aptly addressed right from the onset. In the Preface section of this autobiography on page 6, Williams sums up this book as follows: “I have captured my story from my humble beginnings all the way up to the two goals I scored against Tunisia in the AFCON ’96 finals that helped Bafana Bafana bring the cup home, 25 years ago”.
It did not escape me, that among the grave omissions in this book, was the absence of Williams’ year of birth, from his poverty stricken birthplace of Rondvlei, which he explains in page 11 of the book, is nicknamed k*k yard in Western Cape.
For the record, the other grave omission is the absence of any details about his love life. With that being said, the aforesaid opening words by Williams, are articulated differently, by the iconic South African soccer legend Jomo Sono.
Indeed, Sono, on the first page of this book’s foreword section, articulates that “This book is about Mark Williams and his progression through his career, from having started in Cape Town, playing at certain clubs - both domestic and international - and then ending with him having scored those two amazing goals for Bafana Bafana against Tunisia in Afcon ’96 finals”.
For all those curious to know, Sono’s acquaintance and professional relationship with Williams is addressed at the end of Chapter Six, titled Playing for Hellenic FC (specifically from page 99) and is continued into Chapter Seven, which is aptly titled Entering The Big Leagues.
The details articulated by Williams in the latter pages, may help prospective readers, to understand why it means so much to Williams, for Sono to have accepted to script the foreword, for his autobiography.
Overall, as may be expected from an autobiography, Williams as the author of his life-story, typically employs a narrative style, which manifests the privilege of hindsight, draws from his ontologically informed outlook, about various phases, and encompassed both the bad and good. The perceived bad ranged from his mischievous behaviour, which included notoriety while in gang life, dropping out of school, and the perceived good included overcoming mistakes and learning to be a team player in the game of life.
The significance, of his experiences, certainly influenced Williams’ fragmentary worldview or weltanschauung.
A significant highlight for prospective readers of this book, is that they can look forward to discovering numerous obscure details about Mark Williams, which have mostly been unknown to the South African public.