Allow me to join the debate initiated by Robert Marawa
on his 083Sport With Marawa on Metro FM last week.
Speaking to Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile
Mbalula about the passing of South African soccer legend, Steve
“Kalamazoo” Mokone, Marawa intimated that a national soccer stadium
should be named after the great player.
The presenter pointed out that we already have
stadiums such as the Nelson Mandela Bay, Moses Mabhida and Peter Mokaba named
after politicians. These are all World Cup stadiums built or refurbished for
the 2010 Soccer World Cup at a cost of billions of rands.
It would be befitting to have one national stadium
named after a soccer player and Mokone would not be a bad start.
I totally agree.
Before I am guillotined, let me hasten to explain
briefly who Kalamazoo was, given our diverse backgrounds and ages in this
was born in Doornfontein (Johannesburg) on May 23, 1932. His parents moved
briefly to Sophiatown and later settled in Kilnerton (Pretoria).
deadly striker, by the age of 16, he had already represented the country
playing for an SA Black XI.
was at this age also that he was signed by the then all-conquering Durban Bush
1955, he became the first African from Sub-Sahara to move overseas when he
joined Coventry City for whom he scored on debut.
there he moved to Holland to join Heracles Almelo for whom he made such an
impact that the club named a stand after him. Later a street and a theatre were
named after him.
next move was to Spanish giants Barcelona but he never featured for them as
they already had their full quota of African players. They loaned him to French
he moved to Torino in Italy where some of his feats were scoring all the five
goals – becoming the first foreign player to do so – in a 5-2 victory over
Verona and later scored a hat-trick against Russian giants Dynamo Kiev.
also had a stint with Cardiff City in the English Second Division.
were his achievements as a player.
he moved to Canada and later to the US where he obtained two PHDs.
became an Anti-Apartheid activist which made him even a more bitter enemy of
the then government that had only granted him a one-way Passport when he left
and even refused him permission to come home to bury his father.
football exploits earned him a number of accolades in his latter life including
the highest South African award, the Order of Ikhamanga conferred to him by
President Thabo Mbeki.
He was inducted
into three Halls of Fame, was honoured by both the Confederation of African
Football (CAF) and the South African Football Association (SAFA).
Sports Ministers, the late Steve Tshwete and Mbalula also chipped in with their
awards to him.
a book written in Holland on his life titled De Zwarte Meteoor (The Black
Meteor) which was adapted to a movie with his character played by renowned
South African actor Jet Novuka.
has left this country with a legacy of the Kalamazoo South African Foundation
that helps young footballers with scholarships to the US he founded in 1996 and
has helped several kids from poor backgrounds.
only blight in his otherwise glittering life, was time he served in a US prison
for a felony that he denied to his death two weeks ago when he was just three
days short of his 83rd birthday.
even intimated that the charges were trumped up in a collaboration between the
Apartheid Regime Secret Service and their CIA counterparts. This theory has
never been proven.
this, I think many will agree that if there is any South African football player who deserves to have a stadium named
after them, there is none other than Mokone.
Sports Ministry and SAFA have indicated that they will fulfil one of his wishes
to have his ashes sprinkled at a soccer stadium by doing so at FNB Stadium.
as Marawa suggested, it is time we had a venue called the FNB Kalamazoo
Stadium. Why not?
food for thought you would agree!
S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading
sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of
the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is
currently City Press Sports Editor.
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