LEGENDS CORNER: Ex-soccer star now sets his eyes on Comrades
HELMAN Mkhalele is a man of dreams. His first was to become a soccer star - and he became one. He is now eager to rule the roads as a marathon runner.
In this wide-ranging interview, he speaks about his football career and his failed business venture .
So you think at some stage your name will be mentioned in the same breath as those of greats like Titus Mamabolo, Bruce Fordyce, Lawrence Peu and Xolile Yawa?
(Chuckling) No man, I'm not doing this to copy others. I'm doing what is in my heart. But I strongly believe that one day I will win the Comrades Marathon.
Which athletics events have you competed in so far?
I'm a regular participant at the Soweto Marathon, and I've also featured in the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons. I have not won any of these races but I'm not losing hope because I am improving.
Let's talk football now. Who inspired you to kick the ball?
My brothers Sydney and Lazarus. They played in the NPSL and I grew up watching them.
As an unknown from Emadadeni in Newcastle, how did you end up in Jozi playing for Jomo Cosmos?
It was in December 1990. I heard about the trials organised by Giant Blackpool and I came over.
How did you end up at Cosmos?
They had trials in the same week as Blackpool and I changed my mind and went to Cosmos.
Why did you choose Ezenkosi ahead of the more popular Blackpool?
They had the potential to identify untapped talent.
Who was the coach at Cosmos at that time?
Roy Matthews, but the trials were conducted by Jomo Sono who was then player-chairman. I impressed Bra J and they signed me in January.
Do you still remember your first match at Cosmos?
It was an away fixture against Bloemfontein Celtic. I played on that day by default.
I was not part of the 18 players selected for the match. But after realising that some of the players missed their flight to Bloemfontein, the coach was left with no alternative but to include me in the list. Though I did not score, the coach and Bra J were very impressed with my performance.
Can you comment about claims that Sono used to tell you guys to break your opponents' legs when the tough gets going?
He has never said that. I think people misinterpreted him. He used to advised us to be hard on our opponents ... not to break their legs.
So you decided to dump Cosmos when they were relegated?
My aim was to go down with them, but Bra J made it clear that he would not stand in my way if I wanted to leave. At that time there were overtures from Pirates and he gave them permission to talk to me.
Do you remember your first match at Pirates?
It was against AmaZulu in the Iwisa Spectacular at Soccer City. I scored in that match.
How did you join Kayserispor in Turkey?
Their scouts came to South Africa and were impressed with what they saw from me.
How was life in Turkey?
At first it was difficult because of language barrier. Food was also not tasty and the weather was bad.
Where did you go after your spell in Turkey?
Back home to Cosmos in 2005.
When did you officially quit?
In 2008, after which I stayed at home for a long time before I got my current job at KBC Health and Safety company in Roodepoort. I work as a facilitator.
You spoke about your business that collapsed, what happened?
I tried a furniture business that didn't work because I lacked business skills. I then went to Soweto College for a Teacher's Diploma. That helped me to get a secure job.