Players recall original Soweto derby

Meshack Motloung

Time was when this would be the game everybody was waiting for: Moroka Swallows against Orlando Pirates - the "real" Soweto derby.

That the two South African football giants' meetings are no longer the talk among football fundis is sad. The two meet in a Castle Premiership game at Ellis Park tomorrow and yet there's hardly a whimper.

Sowetan spoke to some of the players who once set local football grounds alight in these then must-see derbies and asked them to go down memory lane. This is what they said ...

Former Orlando Pirates players:

lBlessing "Killer" Mngidi: He was the first player to be transferred from Moroka Swallows to Pirates in 1971.

"I was not intimidated in my first game against Swallows who were one of the most enterprising sides of the time. In that game they were leading by 3-1, with only 17 minutes to go before full time."

The then Bucs captain, Russia Jacobs, wanted Mngidi to be replaced.

"Bra Russia, please give me only 10 to 15 minutes," Mngidi says pleaded.

"After that I scored from Elias 'Shuffle' Mokopane's cross to reduce the margin to 3-2 and Continental Kekane equalised.

"I was marked by Mthunzi 'Shadow' Kota and as a pass was directed at Swallows' goals, he outjumped me but I managed to punch the ball into the net with my fist. The goal stood and we won 4-3."

l McDonald "Rhee" Shosana:

"A derby is something different, something big and something you, as a player, look forward to. But, there is pressure.

"During our times Swallows was a strong team, playing copybook football.

"I remember the BP Top 8 final game against them in 1974 at Orlando Stadium, when we won 7-6. We were trailing 3-1 from the first leg in Port Elizabeth. We had Percy "Chippa" Moloi, who was our mastermind, creating all the goals scored on that day. I scored three goals, Sy Mothoa two, and Moloi [got] the last one.

l Bigboy Kholoane: "Playing against Swallows was something out of this world. It was a real derby and was the talk of the town weeks before the day of the game. The atmosphere was something to enthuse about.

"Although I scored more goals against Swallows than against any other team in the league, nobody was comfortable playing against The Birds.

"On June 13 1976 we beat Swallows 4-1, I scored two goals, but I was unfortunate because I got injured during the June 16 1976 upheavals, and never played our next game against them. But there was no dull moment then."

Former Moroka Swallows players:

l Finki "Mathousand" Sekete: "A derby on its own is something else, it needs discipline and focus.

"At home your sisters, brothers, uncles and parents expect great things from you on the day. You can't afford to put one foot wrong on your first touch.

"On the day of the game your mind is on the game, not on singing spectators. Sometimes you become nervous; that is what happened to me at Swallows in 1979. But we beat Pirates 1-0. A week earlier we had thrashed Kaizer Chiefs 3-1."

l Jonas "Paradise" Sello:

"Our derbies were the biggest games on the South African football calendar. Ahead of the encounter we used to triple our efforts at training. There was a lot of excitement in the air.

"But there was always tension. Your first touch of the ball is important, because after that you settle.

l Josiah "Sergeant" Cindi:

"We would double our effort at training preparing for the big day. The townships would be abuzz and we would be going through a rigorous training schedule. We'll start discussing our opponents' strengths and weaknesses and as to how to treat them.

"I joined Swallows from Preston Brothers in 1971 and we were scheduled to play Pirates in Durban ... we played to a 1-all draw."