motlana true rabbit

Dan Fuphe

Dan Fuphe

Nthato Harrison Motlana, who succumbed to cancer in Johannesburg on Sunday, was yesterday described as someone who was all things to all who came into contact with him.

"Apart from his many roles and functions as medical practitioner, politician, business icon and a philanthropist, Dr Motlana will be remembered as the most revered chairman of the original Benoni United Football Club, aka the Rabbits, from 1972 to 1984," said Sexton 'Oom Tik' Mokholo who was the club's first public relations officer and manager back then.

Mokholo also recalled how the Benoni United of yesteryear was established in Daveyton by local social worker-turned-businessman Mickey Bookholoane in 1972.

"At the time, the Daveyton Football Association was teeming with clubs that had the best amateur players in the area, but with no professional team competing in the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL).

"It was also at the time that Matt Mphahane, the owner of the then Nigel United Buccaneers, which campaigned in the NPSL was experiencing financial problems and wanted to sell the club. As a soccer lover and businessman, Bra Mickey [Bookholoane] met Mphahane to negotiate a deal to purchase the club.

"To succeed, he invited Dr Motlana together with Dr Mafu Dotwana, Dr Pika Nene and a Wattville business tycoon, Samuel Mashego, to a meeting where the group unanimously agreed to acquire the club and also to have its professional status in the NPSL immediately transferred to Benoni United," said Mokholo.

(All these founder members and co-directors, and now Dr Motlana, are deceaded, except for Bookholoane, who is blind).

"The deal was later approved and sanctioned by the NPSL management to have the professional status of Nigel United Buccaneers in the paid league transferred to the new owners and that is how Benoni United FC was born," he said.

To get the Rabbits' football machinery fully operational, Motlana was appointed as the first chairman of the club, while Bookholoane was to become the administrative secretary.

In later years, the Benoni United FC board of directors was extended to include two young local medical doctors, Wesley Mbilase and Solly Skosana.

Paying tribute to Motlana, Mokholo said: "Although Dr Motlana was already a well-known medical doctor, political and business icon and philanthropist when he joined Benoni United FC, to us he was a 'True Rabbit' and a great leader, who executed his duties without fear or favour.

"Whilst he was hard and polite he also brought discipline to all and sundry. Under his solid leadership, the players of the yesteryear Rabbits soccer outfit lived for the game they so loved and cherished.

"To the thousands of former Benoni United supporters, Dr Motlana's name will be among those of men who will be remembered for bringing professional football right to our door steps.

"May his soul rest in peace and his family comforted during their period of mourning."

l Motlana and Benoni United FC of 1972 parted ways amicably prior to the 1984-85 split in the NPSL, which saw several clubs leave to form the present and lucrative Professional Soccer League.