LEGENDS CORNER: The day the ghost spared a rookie Sam Pam Jnr

SLOW BUT STEADY: Former Orlando Pirates defender Sam Pam jnr Photo: Gallo Images
SLOW BUT STEADY: Former Orlando Pirates defender Sam Pam jnr Photo: Gallo Images

IT DOESN'T often happen that a new member of a team is spared the missiles and insults from enraged supporters.

But in 1997 at PAM Brink Stadium, Springs, little known Sam Pam Jnr was exonerated of any blame by The Ghost for Orlando Pirates' 3-0 thumping by Hellenic.

Instead, the supporters blamed other players and coach Augusto Palacios for the setback and the Peruvian had to be escorted out of the stadium by the police.

Were you spared the missiles because it was your first match at Pirates or because you came on as a late substitute?

The supporters were impressed with what they saw of me for the 20 minutes that I played. They believed had I started the match, the result would have been different.

Was it the first time you were exposed to such an ugly situation?

Such things happened in Nigeria, everywhere. Teams like Pirates have passionate supporters.

When did you start playing soccer?

At a very tender age back home. I represented my province, Plateau State in Nigeria, in different age groups, starting from the Under-13. I was also an active player at schools.

How did you end up at Pirates?

They spotted me while I was playing for BCC Lions. They beat us in the quarterfinals of the Caf Confederation Cup on their way to winning the competition in 1995.

Unfortunately, BCC Lions refused to let me go, so I left them for Shooting Stars the following year. Ironically, we played the very same Pirates in another quarterfinal of the same tournament and we booted them out of the competition in 1996.

What was the competition at Pirates like?

It was stiff yet healthy. I was fortunate because I played in different positions. I was comfortable at the back and in the middle.

Why did you leave Pirates?

It's a sensitive issue, which I would prefer not to dwell on.

So where did you go after leaving Pirates?

To Ajax Cape Town. But there were a number of teams who were keen to sign me. My phone did not stop ringing after Sowetan carried a big front page story: "Sam Pam on sale".

Why did you choose Ajax?

Their professionalism during the negotiations. They also took care of me when I arrived in the team. I became their first captain after the amalgamation of Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs in 1999.

Who was your manager?

God, and He is still with me.

You scored for Ajax in their first official match. What was that like?

It is always a wonderful feeling to score your first goal, especially when that goal won your team the match. It was against Kaizer Chiefs in the Iwisa Charity Spectacular in 1999 and we won that match 1-0.

You only spent one year of your two-season contract at Ajax. Why did you leave so quickly?

The new coach, Henk Bodewes, told me that I don't feature in his future plans. He believed in youngsters and I was over 30 at that time.

Where was your next move?

To Ria Stars in Polokwane and I left them when they closed shop in 2002.

I moved to City Pillars but called it quits after we failed to gain promotion to the Premiership in 2004 after coming so close.

Who were your difficult opponents?

All pacey players gave me hard times considering that I was a slow player.

Which coaches did you enjoy working under?

Victor Bondarenko, Kenny Ndlazi and Shuaib Amado.

Do you remember your best goal?

I scored a stunning free-kick in the fourth minute against Chiefs at FNB Stadium in 1998.

What were your strengths?

My anticipation of the game and I was also strong in the air. I had the ability to score from dead balls and was good at long passes.

What are you doing at the moment?

We develop soccer in some parts of the the country through Ambassadors in Sport, a non-profit Christian organisation that brings hope to people without hope through soccer. As Christians we also spread the world of God through this project.