Football, diski…whatever you call it, the “beautiful game” was once South African obsession, both at amateur and professional level. Football rivalry in Soweto where Goodenough Ace Nkomo and I come from was a daily thing. He came from township, Tshiawelo which was mainly dominated by Tsonga speaking people, on the other hand I hailed from a Nguni township, Senaoane. Putting blacks according to their tribes was plan of the apartheid government of dividing us and people fought against it and broke it.
During those times in the late 70’s and early 80’s Nkomo’s club Northen Brothers after he earlier played for Tshiawelo Bush Bucks. Brothers was a big club with bigger and older players, it enjoyed a successful run and has its own devoted fans. Just across Potchefstroom Road, Senaoane, a place also where the citizens eat, sleep, and breathe football- the township is home to Senaoane Gunners. It was not uncommon to hear the game against Northern Brothers referred to as a “blood rivalry.” Come game day, thousands of people pack the grounds to chant Gunners slogan “Wadl’ i Varara Wadl’ i Cala”. The rivalries between township boys was beyond the football one, in such a way that each township boy would not easily enter into another township without a fight ensuing. Remember a boy would enter another township either because of sport, friendship or for at most times for a girl.
Gunners was the talk of the town also admired because of its blend of football and its introduction of youngsters who were largely smaller to the game when the game at that time was dominated by bigger and older players. Nkomo graduated to be a professional player and plied his trade at Pretoria Callies. He was later recruited to Highlands Park by the legendary Coach Joe Frickleton. He then made a huge move to the Phefeni Glamour boys, Kaizer Chiefs. Later together with another Kaizer Chiefs FC star Abednigo “Valdez is Coming” Ngcobo went to ply their trade in Uruguay( South America) for Penarol where Nkomo was even more successful. It was when he was playing for Kaizer Chiefs and when back from Uruguay when he came to coach Senaoane Gunners.
In Tshiawelo, Nkomo was seen by some as a traitor but others admired him for moving to Gunners, also in Senaoane to some he was not trusted because people thought he had ulterior motives but many admired him for breaking this tribal divide and also ploughing back. I had befriended myself to him wanting him to teach Gunners players how professional football players behave and play. What a choice, the best the club could have chosen after I asked him to come to Gunners during his spare time. Nkomo became a friend, brother, coach and mentor to all. I can categorically say Nkomo fought tribalism and stood for social cohesion.
Nkomo taught Gunners amateur players particularly myself how to behave and play like professionals. As it is raining a lot these days, Ace taught us that training is never cancelled at your place but at the training ground. One of the days it was pouring and in my street there were 4 players Disco, JC, Mainline Thanjekwayo’s and myself were confused whether there will be training or not but we decided to walk to Rockvile Elkah joined by our other Gunners player Carlie Sibiya. On arrival we were surprised and happy that most players like Duma Nkosi, Gilbert Thwala, Joe Moloko, Schola Dube, Victor Thwala, Sbash Nhlapo, Faroh Gamede, Bridge Sodomba(from Tshiawelo)were there as well coming to check whether there will be training, all came jogging. Nkomo our coach arrived jogging like all of us even though he had a car. Yes he had his raining suit on, and we did not have raining suits, remember he could have come by his car but did not. In his address to us, he said never odule ko hae ungwaya sebono uri wabata or pula yana!!. Guess what we trained that day as it was just raining with no thunder.
I hope Clubs or athletes particularly at development level were training for the whole of the week irrespective of the pouring rain particularly as there was no thunder.
By Mike Ntombela – Mike Ntombela Sports Management
Tribute to the Late Goodenough Ace Nkomo