Major current soccer clubs in Pietermaritzburg

2009-12-02 00:00

There are two major soccer clubs in Pietermaritzburg at present – Maritzburg United and Maritzburg City. The more financially-powerful Maritzburg United, owned by businessmen and brothers Farouk and Imraan Kadodia and their fellow investors, currently competes in the Premier Soccer League.

Maritzburg City, owned by businessman Bongi Hlope, currently competes in the third division, but has been known as a major talent producer from the Pietermaritzburg and Howick region, including Pietermaritzburg’s most famous footballing export, the troubled but extremely talented Mbulelo Oldjohn Mabizela, who played for Tottenham Hotspur for a brief spell before leaving the club due to disciplinary problems. The central defender’s troubles followed him to various clubs after Spurs, including Valerenga in Norway and Pretoria billionaires Mamelodi Sundowns, and he is currently resurrecting his career at Rustenburg-based team Platinum Stars.

Other famous players who have come through Maritzburg City’s structures include Sundowns and Bafana midfielder Papi Zothwane, Golden Arrows midfielder Thokozani Mshengu and Bheka Phakathi, who currently plays for city rivals Maritzburg United having been on the books of Arrows and Soweto giants Orlando Pirates. These players, along with Mabizela, were part of an exciting combination that campaigned for City in the first division in the late 1990s. Striker Siphelele Mthembu recently signed for Pirates from City as a 19-year-old.

Maritzburg United have been in existence since 1979. The club were founded when the city’s glory club in the all Indian and coloured Federated Professional League, Maritzburg City, folded. Current chairman Farouk Kadodia, then just 19 and fresh from completing his matric, was asked by the FPL to establish a club along with fellow businessman Bryan Rupram, to maintain a presence in for the league in Pietermaritzburg.

The club faded into obscurity in the mid-1980s, to be reestablished by Farouk and Imraan Kadodia in 1997, competing in the lower leagues. In the 2003/04 season under former Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker United just managed to finish in the top eight in the then-first division Coastal Stream to be part of a new nationwide 16-team Mvela Golden League that would serve as the second-tier in SA football. In 2004/05, under another former Bafana coach, Trott Moloto, then current Santos coach Boebie Solomons, a discipline-troubled United narrowly lost out on a promotional play-offs place by finishing fifth. The team were destined to compete in the Mvela League again in 2005/06, but five games into the season an opportunity arose to purchase the PSL franchise of newly-promoted Tembisa Classic. The team, coached during the season by Moloto, then former Durban Bush Bucks great Mlungisi “Professor” Ngubane, competing as\Classic, or Maritzburg Classic, survived relegation by a point with a final-match away draw against Moroka Swallows. The next season, under flambouyant former Pirates coach Kosta Papic, then Serbian countryman Vladislav Heric, and finally Ngubane, United were comprehensively relegated from the PSL in a troubled season.

The team restructured itself in the first division and under the professional, gutsy managership of coach Ian Palmer won the newly-restructured two-stream first division Coastal Stream in 2006/07. United beat FC AK 3-1 on aggregate in the two-legged promotion final to return to the PSL, with a big crowd packing home ground Harry Gwala Stadium to view the 2-0 second leg victory. Striker Fadlu Davids finished the first division’s top scorer and player of the season.

In 2007/08, back in the PSL and now under four-time South African league title winner Gordon Igesund, United finished 12th.

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