Better late than never – Motaung

2013-04-28 14:00

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Receiving Order of Ikhamanga from the president allowed the Chiefs boss to reflect on the ups and downs of his remarkable life

While playing soccer in the United States in the 1960s, Kaizer Motaung had tough choices to make.

He could have easily chosen to stay permanently in the country where he played for the Atlanta Chiefs.

His career was blossoming and there were better choices for future career paths.

Instead, Motaung opted to return home and plough back into his country of origin.

“I had opportunities presented to me to stay and make a living over there, pursue my education further and stay permanently. But something in me said the sport that took me there needed me to plough back. Fortunately, when I came back, the opportunity presented itself, and the rest is history.”

And this selfless exercise of not only thinking about himself alone but about the country, saw Motaung being conferred with the Order of Ikhamanga (silver) by President Jacob Zuma yesterday.

Although the award has come long after his glorious playing days, Motaung said it reminded him of the dark days of apartheid when he could not represent his country at international events.

But he said it was better to get it late than never, as he felt a sense of fulfilment at having such a memorable accolade bestowed on him.

The Kaizer Chiefs supremo described the award as a dream come true – a reflection of his life journey and the sacrifices he had to make to be where he is today.

The Ikhamanga accolade is in recognition of South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sports.

The 68-year-old said: “I feel fulfilled now, looking back at where I am coming from. But it also says I would not have travelled alone, hence I am dedicating it to all the people I have worked with to be where I am today. Coming from our background, I am fulfilled in terms of the fact that we were not privileged to be able to represent our country and we had to work under those difficult circumstances for the growth of the sport in the country,” said Motaung.

On his return from the US, Motaung founded Chiefs in 1970.

“I could have stayed there, and it was easy to be tempted, but I gave up all that to come and contribute towards my people. The Chiefs thing came about and I am happy I am able to leave a legacy.”

He said the journey continues, as he wants to lay a good foundation for the new generation to take up the baton.

“I want to guide them until my time is up.”

But he was quick to point out that he was not about to call it a day, saying there were people older than him who were still involved with the game.

“There will be a time when I have to retire, but it is not even on my mind yet. For now, I want to ensure the journey continues and I guide the young ones in pursuit of our success.”

Motaung still has big dreams for Chiefs. He said his top priority was to build a world-class development structure.

“My heart is with the academy and I want to spend more time on youth issues, because they are our future.”

A few years ago, Chiefs closed down their youth academy to try to curb the problem of age cheating, but Motaung said it would soon be fully functional again.

Chiefs are on the verge of clinching the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title for the third time, but Motaung insisted it was not over yet.

But he said coach Stuart Baxter and his coaching team deserve credit for putting the team in the strong position it is in now.

“A lot has changed since Stuart came, and it was a good move to bring someone of his calibre.

“We have also invested well this season, with the kind of players we have acquired. We are on the verge of investing heavily in our youth academy, to make sure there is continuity, to build our brand.”

About the PSL, where he serves as chairperson of finance, he said it was important to make a meaningful contribution to the league, to place the sport on the level it deserved to be.

“We had to endure a lot of hardship in the past and it is because of that experience that we have to leave the league intact when our time is up. History will bear testimony to what we have done.”

The Chiefs boss also talked about hooliganism, saying there was a need for legislation to deal with it.

He said the league had to work closely with law-enforcement agencies if they were to deal with this growing problem.

“We must put systems in place that ensure culprits are caught and charged. We must provide safe environments for the supporters, because we are in an entertainment business and people must come to enjoy themselves.

“It is so gratifying when you look at overseas supporters rallying behind their teams. Even Celtic supporters are a good example. But, without the help of the police, we can’t do anything.”

He said it was unfair to expect clubs to be solely responsible for their supporters’ actions.

For now, Motaung wants to continue building the Chiefs empire.

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