S'Busiso Mseleku

FNB Kalamazoo Stadium? Why not!

2015-03-30 13:56
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

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 country.

Mokone was born in Doornfontein (Johannesburg) on May 23, 1932. His parents moved briefly to Sophiatown and later settled in Kilnerton (Pretoria).

A deadly striker, by the age of 16, he had already represented the country playing for an SA Black XI.

It was at this age also that he was signed by the then all-conquering Durban Bush Bucks.

In 1955, he became the first African from Sub-Sahara to move overseas when he joined Coventry City for whom he scored on debut.

From 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.

His 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 side Marseille.

Later 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.

Mokone also had a stint with Cardiff City in the English Second Division.

Those were his achievements as a player.

After retiring, he moved to Canada and later to the US where he obtained two PHDs.

He also 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.

His 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).

Two SA Sports Ministers, the late Steve Tshwete and Mbalula also chipped in with their awards to him.

There is 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.

Mokone 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.

The 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.

Some 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.

Despite 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.

The 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.

Maybe, as Marawa suggested, it is time we had a venue called the FNB Kalamazoo Stadium. Why not?

Some 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.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    s’busiso mseleku  |  soccer

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