The seventies (1970-1979)
The birth of Kaizer Chiefs
One can’t talk about Kaizer Chiefs without mentioning the name of Kaizer Motaung, the man who followed a glittering playing career that places him among the all-time greats of the game, not only locally but in the USA as well, by founding what has become the most successful club in South African football history.
Born on 16 October 1944 in Orlando East, Soweto, Motaung’s remarkable career began in 1960 when his exceptional natural talent earned him a senior debut for Orlando Pirates at the tender age of 16. Throughout the 1960s, the inside-left’s spellbinding ball control, vision and clinical finishing justified his hero status among Buccaneers fans, who bestowed upon him the moniker, Chincha Guluva, the man with the quick feet. His exploits began to attract attention from further afield and in 1968, he departed for the USA to play for Atlanta Chiefs in the North American Soccer League (NASL) after being recruited by former West Ham United player, Phil Woosnam, who was by coaching the American side.
Few, if any, Atlanta supporters in the stadium would have heard of Motaung as he ran on as a substitute to make his debut in a friendly against English giants, Manchester City. His two goals and impressive all-round play, however, ensured his was the name on everybody’s lips by the time the final whistle sounded. By the end of the season he was voted Rookie of the Year, having played a major role in steering his new team to the NASL championship title. Fittingly, it was Motaung who netted the third goal in Chiefs’ 3-0 second-leg victory over the San Diego Toros in the final, after a goalless draw in the first leg.
The following season, ‘Big Boy’, as the South African was soon nicknamed in America, scored 16 goals in 16 matches, ending the season as the league’s top goalscorer and being unanimously voted into the NASL All-Star Team.
Meanwhile, back in Mzansi, things weren’t going so well at Motaung’s former club Orlando Pirates, where internal disagreements saw team manager Ewert Nene and three players, Thomas ‘Zero’Johnson, Ratha Mogoathleng, Edward ‘Msomi’ Khoza expelled. At the conclusion of the 1969 NASL season, Motaung returned home to try and resolve the impasse but sadly his best efforts proved unsuccessful. As a result of these circumstances, it was decided an alternative was needed and in late 1969, the Kaizer XI was formed.
The Kaizer XI arranged and played numerous friendlies, fielding a fantastic team with players such as the acrobatic goalkeeper Vincent ‘Tantie’ Julius, the tough-as-nails Jackie Masike, the speedy Herman ‘Pelé’ Blaschke, midfield genius Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe and the three expelled Pirates players, whose skills and flair soon began to draw ever-growing crowds of spectators to watch them perform.
The positive response from the supporters gave Motaung cause to consider setting up his own club. Drawing on the lessons he learnt from his experience in the United States, he resolved to establish a professionally run club where, above all, players would be paid what they were promised, on time. That might sound normal these days, but back then most South African club bosses routinely failed to deliver on their promises. Not Kaizer, his word is his word, and on 7 January 1970, Kaizer Chiefs FC was born.
It was far from plain sailing during the new club’s formative years. Many within the football fraternity viewed them as upstarts and did not want them to succeed. Fortunately though, most of the players bought into Motaung’s vision of setting up a club that would be run professionally, and trusted his integrity.
With the support of various business partners to supplement Motaung’s personal capital investment, Kaizer Chiefs soon became a force to be reckoned with, winning their first league title in 1974. Motaung contributed 13 league goals to the triumph, despite missing most of the season while playing for Denver Dynamos in the NASL.
In addition to the 1974 league title, Kaizer Chiefs won numerous trophies in the early 1970s, including the BP Top Eight (1973, 1974, 1976), Champion of Champions (1972, 1974, 1976) and the Life Challenge Cup (1971, 1972).
Fans flocked from all corners to be enthralled by the excitement provided by a team brimming with fantastic players. Joseph ‘Banks’ Sethlodi, an accomplished goalkeeper who also took the penalties, defenders Masike and Ryder Mofokeng, midfielders Petros ‘Ten-Ten’ Nzimande, Ntsoelengoe, Vusi ‘Computer’ Lamola and strikers Pelé Blaschke, Michael ‘Bizzah’ Dlamini and Abednigo ‘Shaka’ Ngcobo were all instrumental in creating the swashbuckling style of flowing, entertaining, winning football that attracted supporters by their millions, and has become synonymous with the Kaizer Chiefs brand.
Of that formidable group of footballing pioneers, the chairman likes to remind us: “We, as Kaizer Chiefs, are standing on the shoulders of that generation. If it wasn’t for the success they had in those early years, I don’t know where we would be today.”
With the team’s success came affectionate nicknames, with Amakhosi (which means ‘chiefs’ or ‘kings’ in Zulu) and the (Phefeni) Glamour Boys being the most prominent. The latter label was given by the supporters because Motaung always insisted that his players dress well to fit in with the professional image of the club. Those halcyon years were also defined by the Afro hairstyle, which became popular with a lot of players who imitated Motaung’s trendsetting style when he returned from America sporting the new look.
The club’s slogan of ‘Love & Peace’ came about as an expression of non-aggression in response to a growing wave of violence among fans of other clubs, especially when their teams were losing. The mantra was, and still remains, a core element in what it means to be a Kaizer Chiefs fan.
After wrapping up his successful career in the United States, Motaung returned home permanently in 1975 to continue playing for, and running, the club that he had established five years earlier. However, he hung up his soccer boots only a year later to concentrate fully on guiding Chiefs on their path to becoming the dominant force in South African football that it is today.
Motaung’s decision to focus solely on the administration of the club in 1976 was swayed by the tragic death that year of Ewert ‘The Lip’ Nene. Chiefs’ popular team manager, who had recruited many of the team’s star players, was in Springs to sign up talented young winger, Nelson ‘Teenage’ Dladla, when he was attacked and murdered by hooligans who didn’t want to lose their favourite player to the Glamour Boys. In the absence of Nene, Motaung’s administrative responsibilities increased, leaving insufficient time to devote to playing.
South Africa’s first multiracial league kicked off in 1978, with Kaizer Chiefs achieving a respectable fourth position at the end of the season, as the highest placed traditionally black side, behind originally white clubs, Lusitano, Wits University and Arcadia Shepherds. One year on though, Amakosi were champions, holding off strong competition from Highlands Park and Arcadia Shepherds.
By that time, white players had joined Chiefs, the first of which was Lucky Stylianou, a defensive midfielder. Others would soon follow, including goalkeeper Peta Bala’c, Jimmy ‘Brixton Tower’ Joubert and Frank ‘Jingles’ Pereira.
Amakhosi were by now South Africa’s most popular team. The magic of Kaizer Chiefs derives directly from projecting the proud and dignified image that was so central to Motaung’s vision, because it extended beyond football. The club was formed at the height of repressive apartheid legislation in South Africa and it always presented itself as a self-assured, modern and glamorous institution. Its inspirational vision fitted in with the mood of the times. With their success, Chiefs provided a rare outlet of joy and happiness in turbulent times.
One of the highlights of the seventies was Chiefs becoming the first black side to beat a white one. It happened in the Chevrolet Champions of Champions at the Rand Stadium. Hellenic had won the first leg 4-0. The excellent, but controversial Joe Frickleton, had once boasted that a black team would never be as good as a white one.
Kaizer Chiefs, however, proved Frickleton wrong when they beat ‘white side’ Hellenic (from Cape Town) 2-1 in the second leg. It was an historic moment as it was the first time that an African side had beaten a white team in South Africa.
Amakhosi had grown in only ten years’ time to become the best and most supported soccer side in South Africa. More was to follow…
The eighties (1980-1989)
The Cup Kings rule the roost
Building on the successes of the 1970s, Amakhosi added further silverware to their mounting trophy collection in the 1980s.
Kaizer Chiefs were a team in transition in 1980. As a result of this, only the Sales House Champion of Champions was won after beating Pubs (Pimville United Brothers) 3-1 over two legs in the final. Abednigo ‘Shaka’ Ngcobo and Simon ‘Bull’ Lehoko scored the goals for the Glamour Boys, while Pubs also added with an own goal.
Chiefs finished in second position in the league, five points behind winners Highlands Park.
A huge tragedy struck the club on 22 April 1980 with the sudden passing of Gilbert Sekhabi, the quiet man of soccer. The Chiefs director died 11 days after celebrating his 50th birthday and his death was a further blow for Kaizer Motaung, who had lost Ewert ‘The Lip’ Nene four years earlier.
It was also the year that Vusi ‘Computer’ Lamola said goodbye to the club. The midfielder was one of the true greats in the history of the Amakhosi, thrilling two generations of fans with his vision, dribbling skills and excellent passing ability. It’s not for nothing that one of his alternate nicknames was ‘General’ – the one in charge of the midfield.
The following season was one of the best in the history of Kaizer Chiefs when almost all trophies on offer were won.
First of all, the league title was won in 1981, beating Highlands Park to second position by one point.
Moreover, the Mainstay Cup, the BP Top 8 and the Sales House Champion of Champions were added to the trophy cabinet. Dynamos were humiliated over two legs in the BP Top 8 final, while Orlando Pirates were beaten 3-1 in the Mainstay Cup final.
Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe, who was still shuttling backwards and forwards between America and South Africa, netted four times against Dynamos, while other goals were scored by Ngcobo (twice) and emerging young winger Zebulon ‘Sputla’ Nhlapo.
Nelson ‘Teenage’ Dladla was in superb form that season and was voted as South Africa’s Footballer of the Year 1981.
Others performing brilliantly were goalkeeper Peta Bala’c, who had replaced Joseph ‘Banks’ Sethlodi, and the midfielders Jan ‘Malombo’ Lechaba and Lucky Stylianou.
Amakhosi missed out on the 1982 league title – finishing third – but they remained the knockout kings, retaining the Mainstay Cup, Sales House Champion of Champions and BP Top 8.
Leading the team through this successful period was right-back, Johannes ‘Ryder’ Mofokeng, who succeeded Petrus ‘Ten-Ten’ Nzimande as captain in 1975 and held the post until 1986, when Marks Maponyane mostly wore the armband until Howard Freese assumed command in 1989.
No other Chiefs player wore the captain’s armband for such a long period. Mofokeng was a modern wing-back in the sense that he moved up and down the flank, providing good crosses into the box. He was a hard tackler and a true leader, guiding his teammates and, especially new players, off-the-field as well.
1983 was not a good year for Amakhosi, with only one trophy added, the Datsun Challenge. The disappointing season had much to do with the failure of Argentine coach Orlando Cesares to communicate his ideas to the players. Kaizer Motaung admitted later that this was probably his biggest mistake in recruiting a coach. “His CV looked good,” the Chiefs Chairman once reflected with a wry smile on his face, “but he was a disaster. It can happen.”
However, everything changed the following season with the appointment of Joe Frickleton as the coach. Not every player enjoyed Frickleton’s tough-as-nails approach and increased running at training, but 1984 was a fantastic year for the Amakhosi.
Chiefs not only won the league title, but also the JPS Knockout Cup, the ‘Champ of Champs’ and the Mainstay Cup.
Before the season, Frank ‘Jingles’ Pereira left the club after five outstanding seasons for the Glamour Boys as a genuine crowd favourite. Pereira joined Amakhosi in 1979 as a striker, but was quickly transformed to a defender, mostly deployed in a sweeper role.
It was also the year that the young and talented midfielder Fetsi ‘Chippa’ Molatedi joined Chiefs for a then-transfer record fee of R45 000.
Frickleton’s abrasive methods, however, were not conducive to lasting success and a series of poor results in the 1985 season led to his resignation.
It was a disappointing league season for the Glamour Boys who were only able to achieve the lowest qualifying spot for the BP Top 8, but they did maintain their phenomenal record of winning trophies by winning the two-leg BP Top8 final against Arcadia Shepherds.
It was not an easy year for Chairman Motaung, who views “failure as an enemy”.
But there was better news in 1986, thanks also to the arrival of Ted ‘Mr Magic’ Dumitru, who joined Amakhosi late 1985. The Romanian football manager became a legendary coach at Chiefs and in South Africa in general.
Dumitru, who passed away in 2016, was an unfussy coach, who preferred to act rather than talk. He understood the culture of local football. The players respected him because he didn’t want to change their natural style of play.
“Players are not robots,” the coach once said. “They cannot be directed how to play from the touchline. They need to have the freedom to do things their way while working within the framework of a collective team effort.”
Chiefs won the JPS Knockout, National Panasonic Champion of Champions and the inaugural Iwisa Charity Cup. There was less success, however, in the league and the team had to settle for fourth spot.
Absalom ‘Scara’ Thindwa was absolutely brilliant that season, scoring numerous crucial goals. The striker from Swaziland won the 1986 Players’ Player of the Season.
His compatriot William ‘Cool Cat’ Shongwe, meanwhile, delivered some sterling performances in goal, especially in the JPS final.
The campaigns were strenuous in those days with games coming thick and fast. Howard Freese, for example, made the most appearances that season, playing in 51 league and cup matches.
More success followed in 1987, as the Club won another four trophies (the BP Top 8, Iwisa Charity Cup, Ohlsson’s Challenge and Mainstay Cup). The league title, though, remained elusive. Amazingly, Chiefs had not been able to win the league title since the formation of the National Football League (NSL) in 1985.
However, it was a close call in 1987. They were beaten to the title by Jomo Cosmos by a solitary point. To make matter worse, Chiefs lost to Durban Bush Bucks on the last day of the league campaign.
Meanwhile, Marks Maponyane was chosen as the Footballer of the Year for an excellent season of consummate goalscoring. The striker, who joined Chiefs’ first team in 1981, also became the first player to score a hat-trick in a cup final, scoring all three against Rangers to win the BP Top 8. In that 1987 season, Maponyane netted five goals in cup finals.
Chiefs had a formidable squad in those years, with central defence aces like the Malawian Jack ‘Black Stone’ Chamangwana and Sylvester ‘City’ Kole forming a legendary partnership at the back.
The following season was the breakthrough season of Doctor Khumalo, voted as the 1988 John Player Smooth Series Player of the Season. He was 21-years-old at the time. His potential started to blossom when Chamangwana stood in for Dumitru in late 1987.
Soon, Jeff Butler took over the coaching reigns at Chiefs, helping the club to another trophy, winning the JPS Knockout after beating Jomo Cosmos 3-1 in the final. That was also when former Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey joined Amakhosi together with Mark Tovey, who would play an important role to help the Glamour Boys win the league title the following season.
In 1988, Chiefs again just missed out on the league trophy, this time by losing in the penultimate game against Jomo Cosmos. As a consequence, Amakhosi dropped down to fourth position on the log, two points behind winners Mamelodi Sundowns.
The league title was, however, finally won for the first time in the NSL era in 1989, after Amakhosi finished one point ahead of Orlando Pirates. Other trophies won were the BP Top 8, Ohlssen’s Challenge, the Charity Spectacular and the JPS Knockout.
The club’s success that season was built on a rock-solid defence that only conceded 23 goals in 34 league matches, They were led by Tovey, while Wellington Manyathi starred in the defensive midfield role. Striker Shane MacGregor, meanwhile, was selected as both the Footballer and Players’ Player of the Year. At the time, MacGregor was the first player to have achieved this feat.
It was also the season when Soccer City, these days called the FNB Stadium, was opened on 2 September 1989 when Chiefs beat Moroka Swallows 2-1 in the second leg of the JPS Knockout. Doctor Khumalo and MacGregor scored the goals.
No longer playing in 1989, however, was the great Ace Ntsoelengoe after a marvellous career at the club, which started in 1969 with the Kaizer’s XI.
Eddie Lewis, who coached Ntsoelengoe at Chiefs, once said that if Ace would have been born 20 years later, he would have had the same status as Ronaldinho.
Sadly, Ntsoelengoe died too young, on 8 May 2006. He was a coach at Amakhosi’s development side at the time of his death.
The eighties were a fantastic period for Kaizer Chiefs, as they proved again that they are South Africa’s ‘King of Cups’.