A treat for long-time fans

2010-10-02 00:00

TO this day, Moroka Swallows fans are given to breaking into the anti-apartheid struggle era song Yibambeni we bafana. The political song celebrates the men and women who were willing to carry guns to fight apartheid.

In the song, Swallows fans specifically remember former players Congo Malebane, Ace Mnini and Vader Mophosho. These players — Frederic, Joel and Daniel respectively, to use the names their parents gave them, emerged in the 1970s and played until, at the latest, the early 1990s.

Yet the Swallows faithful, ridiculed for being among the oldest in the league, and who therefore would have seen absolute national legends like Difference “City Council” Mbanya and his brother Lawrence “Rhee”; Carlton “SwingCarly” Moloi (who had played for Cardiff City in the English FA); dribbling genius Ace Guinea and goal machine Mandla Mabaso long before, still choose to sing about Congo, Ace and Vader.

Imagine how much more these three would have meant to Swallows folklore if they had been part of the team that emerged victorious instead of the side that went down 3-2 to Orlando Pirates in the 1980 Mainstay Cup, remembered by those who watched it as one of the classics.

Such is the temperament of a true Swallows fan. Winning is appreciated, but art is mandatory and memorable. Even in losing against Pirates 30 years ago — the last time the two Soweto giants met in a cup final — it is not the side that won the Nedbank Cup last season and it is definitely not the Gavin Hunt-coached team that won the Absa cup in 2004 that they remember. In fact they probably detest anything associated with Hunt, who turned their Beautiful Birds into birds of prey interested only in outcomes rather than processes.

To that, they are not too different to Pirates fans, whose club are on a high and come to Durban favourites to end a 10-year drought since they won a cup competition and seven years since they claimed a trophy. They are favourites not only because they beat Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 on aggregate to reach the finals, but because they are Orlando Pirates.

They are the club that gave South African football Eric “Scara” Sono and his son, Jomo; that made Kaizer Motaung an icon and his partnership with Chippa Moloi the stuff of many legends. They are also the club that until the emergence of Kaizer Chiefs in 1970, had ruled local football.

The Buccaneers and their followers would be hoping to emulate that great side that included legends like Patson “Kamuzu” Banda, Amos “Heel Extension” Mkhari, Johannes “Big Boy” Kholoane and were captained by Andy Karajinski and coached by Phil “Jones” Setshedi who doubled as a central defender, while a much younger Irvin Khoza sat on the bench in a comparatively lowly position of club secretary.

Pirates need this trophy far more than Swallows. For all associated with the famous skull and crossbones, a win will hopefully usher in a period that will explain to younger fans why so many millions of South Africans follow the club despite so many years of under-achieving.

Football historians will point to the irony of Pirates needing Swallows to assert themselves as the big players of the local game. They will show that it was Swallows who in 1953 beat Pirates in the Transvaal Challenge Cup to mark their entry into national football consciousness.

Football academic and historian Peter Alegi records in his book Laduma! Soccer Politics and Society in South Africa, from its origins to 2010 that “a big crowd of enthusiastic spectators at the bantu Sports, most of whom supported the underdogs from Moroka, saw Dennis Ford score the first goal and Joseph Msimanga two more goals to give Swallows a 3-2 victory …”.

Alegi adds: “The Birds replaced Swallows as the Transvaal’s dominant’s team and opened a new chapter in the history of South African football, while the ageing warriors of Orlando faded away after nearly 20 years of superb competition.”

The Pirates-Swallows fixture is not only the original Soweto derby, it is also the most continuously played fixture in top-flight football starting from the late 1940s when Swallows were emerging from the shacklands of Masakeng, on the “other side” of Orlando where Pirates had set up shop.

Though one of them will emerge from Durban victorious, their 136 years of continuous contribution to South African football between them makes them winners again and again. Yibambeni we Bafana …

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.