‘Side mirrors’ sends Pirates crashing

14 March 1987

 

At Orlando Stadium

Kaizer Chiefs 2

Orlando Pirates 1

The sacred Orlando Stadium has introduced many a sensational footballer on its hallowed turf in its fabled history.

And on 14 March 1987 it was introduced to ‘Side Mirrors’ – and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s an introduction that will never be forgotten.

Amakhosi coach Ted Dumitru had given South African football a glimpse of a spindly teenage footballer in the pre-season Iwisa Charity Spectacular earlier that season.

But when the Amakhosi travelled to Orlando Stadium for a grudge Soweto Derby league encounter in March 1987, there was no place to hide for Doctor Kumalo, as the precocious teenage took centre stage.

The Khumalo name was already aristocratic at Kaizer Chiefs, due to the yeoman midfield exploits in Amakhosi colours of Khumalo’s father, Eliakim ‘Pro’ Khumalo.

“I had sat on the Kaizer Chiefs bench for many years as a kid watching my father and I saw the passion of the Kaizer Chiefs fans, coming to support the team in huge numbers. I sat quietly in a corner of the dressing room and thought to myself ‘WOW!’ as I saw ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe, ‘Teenage’ Dladla, ‘Banks’ Setlhodi, ‘City’ Kole, and ‘Computer’ Lamola in the room. Not once did I ever dream I would be wearing that jersey. I used to take a train to watch Chiefs games. But that day I arrived in the kombi with the team, in a Kaizer Chiefs tracksuit. And to put the cherry on top, Ted put me in the starting line up,” Khumalo says, still incredulous and animated, years later.

More than most he knew the magnitude of the Soweto Derby, and on the day he embraced, and didn’t shun, history and his calling.

“I grew up in family that was football crazy, in a township that was derby crazy. And when I made my debut in a Soweto Derby league game I saw an opportunity for myself. The derby is a game that will make or break you as a footballer. I decided it would be the game I put my footprint, and that of jersey number 15, on the Soweto Derby and on South African football,” says Khumalo.

At the age of just 19 years, seven months and 16 days old, Khumalo scored his first league goal in that derby in a 2-1 win for Chiefs, and he was just too much for the Buccaneers, and for Pirates’ Mandla Sithole in particular.

“I could hear the Pirates bench on the side line saying ‘this is just a novice, he’s a youngster’. Back then people gave me the nickname ‘side mirrors’ because I could see what was happening on the pitch from all angles, whether it was spotting a pass, or a run, or on that day in Sithole’s case a crunching tackle from behind. He came to kick me, but the next thing the ball was through his legs, and he grabbed me and fell on top of me, skinny as I was. The referee sent him off immediately. Then I heard the Pirates bench saying ‘what happened there?! This boy is dangerous’,” Khumalo laughs.

The inimitable ‘16V’ has more than lived up to his father’s lofty name and jersey at the Amakhosi over the years.

“The Kaizer Chiefs jersey is the only shirt I know,” says Khumalo, adding “every parent wants to see their kid shine and excel. Wherever they are, my parents know I was their investment. May their souls rest in peace”.