Sport Icons: How City Press covered them

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Jomo Sono in action. Photo: Supplied
Jomo Sono in action. Photo: Supplied


City Press played a pivotal role in promoting a number of team and individual sports in the country, elevating the profiles of many who went on to be successful.

The birth of City Press in the early 1980s coincided with the emergence of several athletes, football clubs, administrators and other sports bodies.

Thanks largely to the publicity they gained through this newspaper, many went on to become icons of South African sport.

This was the era when Kaizer Chiefs – founded by Kaizer Motaung a decade earlier – were continuing their domination as the cup kings of South African football.

A young Kaizer Motaung. Photo: City Press archives

City Press was there to capture the establishment of Jomo Cosmos in 1983, the formation of the National Soccer League (NSL) in 1985, the exploits of Arthur “Fighting Prince” Mayisela in the boxing ring, and the likes of Matthews “Loop en Val” Motshwarateu and Matthews “The Flash” Temane leading a golden era of athletics.

Arthur ‘Fighting Prince’ Mayisela packs a punch. Photo: City Press Archives

As much as City Press gave many sportspeople and organisations a fair amount of coverage, not many come close to the publicity Chiefs got.

The club’s off-the-field “Glamour Boys” status complemented the team’s success on the pitch and that made Amakhosi a leading topic on sport pages.

In celebrating Chiefs’ 52nd anniversary in January this year, Motaung came just short of acknowledging the media in his statement when he spoke about the effect of the Chiefs brand.

Kaizer Motaung in classic form. Photo: City Press Archives
Today, every third person you meet out there is a Kaizer Chiefs follower. It just shows the magnitude of this brand and what it means to the people.

“This brand has had a very serious influence on the lives of many people in this country,” Motaung said.

City Press also documented the transformation of Orlando Pirates under Irvin Khoza, who assumed control of the club after factional battles that led to a violent split in the early 1980s.

Khoza, popularly known as the Iron Duke, turned the Buccaneers into a giant that gave Chiefs a run for their money.

Somehow, Jomo Sono’s arrival on the scene also made headlines after his side Cosmos narrowly beat Chiefs to the league title in 1987.

READ:  Jomo Sono reawakens giant, eyes return to PSL

After all, the Black Prince, as Sono is also known, came to prominence as a player at the same time as Motaung, and both are regarded as the country’s best exports who played in the US soccer league together with Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe.

Kaizer Motaung in classic form. Photo: City Press Archives

There were also flamboyant characters of the time such as NSL public relations officer Abdul Bhamjee and former Mamelodi Sundowns owner Zola Mahobe, whose controversial moments provided content for the front page.

City Press was more than just a publication – the paper used to be the title sponsor of the South African footballer of the year award, while it also established a yearly guide called City Press Soccer Annual.

The recipient of that inaugural City Press-sponsored award in 1985, then Bloemfontein Celtic midfielder Ernest “Wire” Mtawali, also affectionately known as Chirwali, once shared that he still had the clippings of articles about himself.

Irvin ‘Iron Duke’ Khoza with the late City Press sports editor S’Busiso Mseleku. Photo: City Press Archives

The former Malawian international, who also turned out for Sundowns and Pirates, was among the talented group of foreign players the late Celtic owner Petrus Molemela recruited to his club in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Mayisela also made it into this paper many times. The charismatic pugilist from Meadowlands in Soweto was rated as one of the biggest drawcards in local boxing during the early 1980s before he passed away in 1986. City Press’ coverage of athletics at the local mines gave exposure to the likes of Temane and Tshakile Nzimande.

READ: Yawa’s record still the benchmark

They could have achieved more had it not been for the anti-apartheid sports boycott that denied them a chance to compete on the international stage.

Temane, who was recognised by his trademark white necklace made from shells, once said in an interview that he had a book that he’d kept over the years, featuring all the articles that were written about his achievements.

Matthews ‘The Flash’ Temane. Photo: City Press Archives


Daniel Mothowagae 

Deputy sports editor

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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