An historic day for Kaizer XI

Kaizer Chiefs was famously established formally on 7 January 1970.

A little-known part of the club’s history, however, is the crucial role played ahead of the club’s formation of the Kaizer Motaung Invitational XI – popularly known as the Kaizer XI – in helping build the brand that has become the juggernaut it is today.

Motaung made his debut for Orlando Pirates as a 16-year-old attacking left wing and quickly established himself as a Pirates star, before he was signed by Atlanta Chiefs in 1968 in the inaugural season of the North American Soccer League (NASL).

Motaung was a sensation at Chiefs, helping them to win the national league title in the first NASL season, in which he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year and he was also Chiefs’ top goalscorer with 11 goals. Chiefs finished second in the league in Motaung’s second season in Atlanta in 1969, in which he made the NASL All-Star Team and cemented his spot as one of the American league’s brightest stars.

When Motaung arrived at Johannesburg’s then Jan Smuts Airport three days after Chiefs finished their season on 31 August 1969, he returned to an Orlando Pirates club in turmoil.

Three of Orlando Pirates’ top players – Thomas ‘Zero’ Johnson, Edward ‘Msomi’ Khoza and Ratha ‘Jimmy Greaves’ Mokgoatlheng – had been expelled from the club after they had gone on a trip to Gaborone, Botswana, to participate as guest players for a local club without properly informing the management of the Buccaneers. Team manager Ewert Nene was also expelled.

Other than expressing disappointment on his return at the banishing of the club of his four close friends and teammates, Motaung said little about the goings-on at Pirates.

Rather than returning to Pirates himself, a week after his arrival back in South Africa, Motaung announced plans to tour the country with his own invitation eleven, which he would choose from the leading teams in the country, with a view to scouting for talent for Atlanta Chiefs.

“I am not forming a team in opposition to Orlando Pirates. Nobody loves the Bucs as much as I do. They are part of me,” Motaung said at the time.

After getting together for a few training sessions the Kaizer XI played their first game 50 years ago today – on Saturday 20 September 1969 – at the Union Stadium in Newlands in the west of Johannesburg, against a Transvaal Coloured Professional Soccer League Invitational XI.

Besides the trio of expelled Pirates players, Johnson, Khoza and Mokgoatlheng, amongst the first players to join the Kaizer XI were acrobatic goalkeeper Vincent ‘Tantie’ Julius and the Singh brothers, Ingle and Melvin – all from Pretoria’s Marabastad Sundowns, as well as Ariel ‘Pro’ Kgongoane, Eliakim ‘Pro’ Khumalo and Stanley ‘Screamer’ Tshabalala.

Kaizer Motaung himself scored the first goal for the Kaizer XI, as they went on to win their first game 4-0 in front of a vibrant crowd. Motaung and Ingle Singh both scored a brace in that historic first match of Kaizer’s exciting invitational side.

The following day they played a Springs Invitation XI at KwaThema and ran riot to win 9-1 as news quickly spread of this new and exciting bunch of footballers and their entertaining, stylish brand of football.

Kaizer’s XI continued to play friendlies and also travelled outside the country, winning their first match in South West Africa, now Namibia, against a local Invitation XI 14-2, with Motaung scoring eight.

On their travels to Namibia, the Kaizer XI went on to sign Namibian star Herman ‘Pelé’ Blaschke, who would go on to become one of Kaizer Chiefs’ biggest stars.

The more they played, the more they filled stadiums to capacity.

Alfred ‘Bomber’ Chamane was the first player to join the Kaizer XI from Natal. Many others would soon follow. The striker had a ferocious shot in both legs, hence the nickname ‘Bomber’.

He netted two goals in his first game for Kaizer’s XI against a National Professional Soccer League XI.

Another making his first appearance for the Kaizer XI in that game was a brilliant young talent from Randfontein… Patrick ‘Ace’ Netsoelengoe, who scored a brace on debut.

The Kaizer’s XI took off spectacularly, turning out to be a phenomenal success beyond everybody’s expectations.

“I had a vision, even before we started Kaizer Chiefs. I learnt so much in the United States and I wanted to make the team I was with in South Africa – Orlando Pirates – more professional. Obviously, when things turned out differently with Pirates, the aim and the vision of what we wanted to achieve with Chiefs were already there. So yes, there was a dream once the vision was identified and there was also a need for change,” says Motaung.

“Kaizer often spoke to us about what it took to become a top player,” says the Kaizer XI’s first goalkeeper Julius, adding, “He told us that how we looked after ourselves and presented ourselves on and off the field was extremely important.”

As Kaizer Chiefs prepare to celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary on 7 January 2020, it does so paying tribute too to the stars and characters of the Kaizer XI, who caught the imagination of the country’s fans and who were important precursors to the formation of the Amakhosi that is so loved and revered today.