Steve Komphela is made of stern stuff

The first was in 1996 when he was not part of the Bafana Bafana team that went on to win the Africa Cup of Nations.

The second occurred six years later, when he missed the flight to the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, and was later dismissed.

Komphela said the first incident nearly broke him.

“But when I look back, I realise it actually made me a strong man instead of a bitter one. My team-mates teased me as I did not play in a big tournament after playing in so many local games since 1992.

“The episode made me understand that football is not there forever,” said the 48-year-old coach.

He has, however, become more resilent over the years.

The Kaizer Chiefs coach therefore has first-hand experience of being let down and has vowed not to let anyone down at Amakhosi.

“I come from humble beginnings, an environment that had nothing, no hope. As a result, anything that came my way was a plus. I don’t moan and groan about life.

“I have learnt to appreciate everything that comes my way because somewhere someone is worse off,” he said.

Komphela was appointed as Chiefs’ coach last month.

“Wherever I go people constantly ask ‘will you make it?’. It is one of the most common questions I get.”

The former Maritzburg United coach said he had made quite a few changes in the last month.

“I assumed the responsibility knowing that I wouldn’t be representing myself anymore, I would be representing the team – and I have made some changes because of that.

“I am carrying a movement and accepted a mission that has to be accomplished. I have to accept that I am not just a football coach but an activist because a lot of people look up to me,” he said.

Early life

Komphela, who grew up in Golden Valley farm, about 20km outside Kroonstad in the Free State, said his upbringing had taught him perseverance, discipline and dedication.

He is the youngest of 11 children – six boys and five girls. His late father, Jack Koyi Koyo Komphela, was an agricultural expert. His mother, Nomalanga, has also passed away.

“I love the fact that I went through hardships.

“If I had not, then I would not be where I am today. I was moulded by harsh circumstances and I am the product of those circumstances – it has made me what I am today.”


Komphela, who is a teacher by profession, says education has been neglected by the current crop of local soccer players. He holds a teacher’s diploma from Tshiya College of Education in QwaQwa, Free State, but failed to complete his degree.

“As much as I went through hell in my life, education was the key as it moulded me and gave me discipline, focus and perspective. This helps a person to make informed choices.

“I live my life with an open mind, maintain a high level of humility and accept criticism. I know that I am human and fallible, and I am always prepared to improve.

“Sometimes, it is painful to be criticised but I have learnt to listen. I am determined to achieve my goals.

“I have learnt that football can be rewarding. It will bring you a lot of admirers but sometimes it can be devastating.

“It can elevate you to a status that makes you think you are superior to everyone else and then dump you in the dustbin. So when you know – and have experienced – all these things, you learn to tread carefully and always remain humble.”

Life in Turkey

Komphela said that he learnt a lot about himself when he went to Turkey.

“I had not been exposed to that environment and it was really an eye-opener for me. It was a transition from a South African world to a world that was extremely unfamiliar to me. I remember that Turkish people asked me about South Africa, and it was my country and it was kind of offensive that they knew more about the history of the country where I grew up than I did.

“All I knew was the history I was taught at school, which was biased. These people from outside South Africa knew a lot about my country.

“That’s when I decided to do some soul-searching. I wanted to find my identity as a black South African.”

Komphela said he became a television presenter by chance.

“I appeared on one TV show and people were surprised to hear a black man speak fluent Turkish, and that was how it really started. I was subsequently given my own show by the owner of the television channel Canakkale Dardanelspor AS.”
He admitted that his career as a TV presenter earned him more fame in Turkey, than his career as a footballer there.


The father of three daughters – Nomalanga (18), Nombuyiselo (12) and Noxolo (7) – said it was important to balance football with family time. He is married to Mamoepi Komphela.

“Football takes a lot of time and requires a lot of sacrifice. It is important that your family understands the industry and these requirements.

“My experience has taught me that if the people you live with do not understand your industry, divorce is just around the corner. I have seen a lot of my colleagues, both here and abroad, go through divorce and lose wonderful families because of the job.”

He also said football was a cruel profession.

“Where there is money, there is mud. This game is cruel, it will beat you and turn you into dust if you don’t know how to go about it. It has benefits, but it comes at a price.”


Komphela said he was on a mission to change misconceptions and perceptions about black coaches in South Africa.

“I want to leave a legacy where there will be respect for all; where there will be integrity for all and where people will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

“When you look at me, you see a black man – and this should not be the measure.”
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