He could easily have been mistaken for a hanger-on in the beginning, but Amien Kaldine’s long association with Kaizer Chiefs has made him the mortar in the foundation of the tradition-steeped club.
In fact, Bra Spy, as the 63-year-old Amakhosi support staff member is affectionately called, has come a long way with his idol, Chiefs founder Kaizer Motaung.
Their connection dates back to the days when Motaung was an Orlando Pirates player and Kaldine, from Kliptown in Soweto, was his chief admirer.
Five decades later, Bra Spy is still at his hero’s side as Chiefs celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Kaldine could well be regarded as Motaung’s confidant. Initially serving as Chiefs’ bus driver and doubling up as team manager for more than two decades, Kaldine spends more time with the Amakhosi supremo these days as his personal driver.
It is clear where Kaldine got his snazzy dress sense – he mirrors the Chiefs’ Glamour Boys nickname, which was coined by Amakhosi supporters because Motaung always insisted that his players dress to the nines to fit in with the image of the club.
During his interview with City Press this week, Spy wore a pull-over jersey and a checked shirt that was tucked into pleated trousers. With his multiple gold rings, he also resembled township folk from the old days, who were referred to as “the clevers or tsotsis van toeka af”.
“Witnessing the club’s 50th birthday party in Phefeni [on Tuesday] was really an honour. To see players like Maria Maria [Zacharia ‘Computer’ Lamola] still active made me so emotional. I am talking about the founding fathers. For me, it was a pleasure,” said Kaldine.
However, it was his affection for Motaung that persuaded Kaldine to make Chiefs his eternal home.
“I was 13 when I met Mr Motaung. This man was a life gift for me,” said the married father of three.
“I was still a laaitie [little boy], but I was just a fan who was happy to be around legends such as Msomi [Khoza], Ratha [Mokgoatlheng], [Thomas] Zero Johnson, Screamer Tshabalala ... the guys were so united.
“I regularly accompanied them to the training grounds and I knew their times. I made sure I was there after school,” said Kaldine, who was a pupil at Kliptown Secondary School at the time.
He used to walk 6km to Phefeni to watch his heroes at the grounds opposite the Motaung’s family home on Sentsho Street, which eventually became his second home.
Spy once vanished from his family home for days, but he escaped a hiding from his father, who became star-struck when Motaung dropped Kaldine off.
That’s how the relationship between the two families started, and Spy’s bond with Motaung became even stronger.
“My father was so angry that day, but when he saw Kaizer, he just became calm because he [Kaldine’s father] was also a player during those years,” Spy said.
This was until the late Chiefs co-founder, Ewert “The Lip” Nene, organised transport for him and nicknamed the budding kid “Spy 13” after a cartoon character who was known to be as quick as lightning on a motorbike.
“Bra E [Nene] was a chain-smoker, so he used to send me to buy cigarettes for him and I’d be back within a blink of an eye. He nicknamed me Spy 13 and the name has stuck till today,” said Kaldine with a chuckle.
He later took City Press around the corridors of Chiefs’ offices, reciting the history behind most of the club’s framed images from the past.
After all, he had overseen many a generation of Chiefs players over five decades, including a rare moment when he saw Motaung – naturally a left-footer – score with his right foot in a top-eight cup match against Pirates in 1972.
Sadly, the goal sparked riots and the match at the Meadowlands Stadium was abandoned. Pirates won the replay, recalled Spy.
Kaldine shared some of the things many would not have known about his boss, such as his love for sweets and chocolate, as well as jazz.
“His favourite jazz musician is Miles Davis.”
He said Motaung told good jokes if they weren’t talking football when they drove around together.
Looking back, Spy said he did not think he would work for Chiefs. His focus was always on following his hero around.
“And K [Motaung], like his parents, is a kind-hearted person and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t change my life.”
Kaldine was officially employed by Chiefs in 1995, when the club relocated from the Johannesburg CBD to Naturena.
Kaldine said the death of Chiefs great Ace Ntsoelengoe in 2006 hit him really hard. They had spent the day together at Spy’s house and the legendary midfielder died from a heart attack just hours later.