Legends Corner: Former Pirates player relives his days of glory
THOSE who were fortunate enough to watch Meshack Wonder Mjanqeka play football in the '70s and '80s still vouch even today that he would have walked into Bafana Bafana by popular demand.
Mjanqeka played with the grace of a gazelle, was elegant and commanded the midfield like an army general in all the different teams he played for. But it was at Benoni United - alias "The Rabbits" - that his star really shone through and where he was duly nicknamed "Mr Executive" as he marshalled his troops to many a memorable victory.
Mjanqeka prides himself with having been the first name coaches called out when naming their teams and also boldly says he was never substituted or given problems by any particular player during his time on the football pitch. We take him back down memory lane.
How did it all start?
I was about five years old when I start kicking the ball. I used to play with players who were older than me in the dusty streets of Kagiso (on the West Rand). I continued to play soccer at school and my coach was the late Ms Joko at Sthembile Primary School in Kagiso.
Why a female coach?
I was at primary school and at the time primary schools only had female teachers. But I must say that Ms Joko knew the techniques of the game. Sandile Yeni, the principal at Sandile Higher Primary, also played a major role in shaping my play.
Where did you go thereafter?
To a boarding school in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape but I was frustrated because there was no serious football there. Soccer played second fiddle to rugby and tennis and the situation forced me to resort to these codes. But my love of football drove me to join a local team, Happy Stars FC. I also played for Texas Rangers back home during school holidays.
Why did you return to the Eastern Cape after you were dismissed at the boarding school?
Tembu Royals FC recruited me and organised another school to complete my matric. My dismissal at the boarding school (after they protested against the introduction of Afrikaans in Grade 11 in 1971) turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it opened doors for me to play professional football.
My exploits at Royals caught the eye of provincial selectors, who drafted me into the Central Transkei invitational side for an amateur tournament in Kimberley. It was at that tournament in 1972 where I impressed Moroka Swallows Babes (who were competing in the promotional league).
Their captain, the late Baldwin "Groovin" Molope, and Joseph "Carlton" Moloi persuaded me to join them in Soweto.
Why did you dump the Babes for Benoni United in 1974? They are the ones who dumped. I suffered a serious ankle injury while on duty but they expected me to pay for my medical expenses.
Tell us about Pirates.
I joined them in 1979 after much persuasion from Zacharia Mashaba, Cyril Kobus and Sipho "Sixty" Mali who kept on bothering me at my workplace (in Roodepoort where he worked as a clerk at Bantu Affairs, now Home Affairs).
There are still claims that you and Jomo Sono did not see eye to eye at Pirates because he regarded you as a threat. Can you clear the air?
Jomo and I got along very well and he even sold me his video player at a very cheap price (laughing). But on a serious note, I've never had any problem with anybody at Pirates, including Jomo.
Which goal stands out for you?
The one that I scored for Casio Dynamos against Hellenic. I struck from the touchline close to a corner-kick spot. I hit the ball hard with the outside foot and (goalkeeper) Pat "Sgantsontso" Wasmuth was left hanging in the air, befuddled.
Your most memorable game?
Scoring three goals for Benoni United against Pirates in the final of the BP Top 8 at Orlando Stadium in 1978. But we lost that match on 4-3 aggregate after they beat us 3-0 in the first leg in Durban.
And your worst game?
When (United) lost 6-0 against Chiefs. I think the coach (John Thomas) made a big blunder by considering (keeper) Peter Sejaki for the match. He was completely out of that game because he had just lost his father.
Who was your best-dressed teammate?
Jerry Sadike at Pirates, but I was also not that bad (giggling).
What was your highest salary as a professional player?
R1000 a month at Dynamos.
R25 a week at United. But Swallows Babes and Pirates were also paying peanuts because they were struggling financially. I remember running around with a R300 cheque from Pirates for three months trying to cash it. I couldn't because there was no money in the bank. This contributed to me leaving Pirates at the end of 1980 for Casio Dynamos.
After Dynamos where did you go?
To Swallows in 1983 before returning to The Rabbits the following year.
What did you do thereafter?
I formed the Executive Spinners, an amateur team in Kagiso.
What are you doing now?
I'm the chairman of Safa West Rand Region.