Steve Komphela pays tribute to his 'father' Mokoena

Free State Stars chairman Mike Mokoena is seeking financial aid from the government. /Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Free State Stars chairman Mike Mokoena is seeking financial aid from the government. /Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

"I have just lost my father."

This is how a discernibly touched former Free State Stars coach Steve Komphela reacted to the passing of Ea Lla Koto chairperson Mike Mokoena yesterday.

Mokoena, a founding member of the National Soccer League (NSL), succumbed to cancer after a long battle.

He was receiving treatment at Sandton's Oncology Clinic when he departed in the early hours yesterday.

Komphela and the late Stars owner shared a father-son relationship, dating back to Komphela's days as the club's player and captain between 1989 and 1993.

The 52-year-old Golden Arrows mentor also had two spells as the Ea Lla Koto coach. His maiden spell was in 2008-2009 and the second one from 2010 to 2013.

"I have just lost my father. Ntate Mokoena was like my biological father... he remains my father even when he's passed away. I am the man I am today because of him," Komphela told Sowetan yesterday.

Komphela's myriads fond memories of Mokoena range from the day the deceased Stars boss lent him a car to get to a Bafana Bafana camp, as a player, to living with him in his house when schools were closed when he was juggling playing and studying teaching at Tshiya College in Phuthaditjhaba.

"I don't know if I must remember him for what he did for me during my playing days or my coaching days. It's just a melting pot of great things.

"What I remember vividly was how he was always prepared to support.

"I remember when I was playing for the national team then, I didn't have transport. He gave me his car, it was a Fox (a VW model)," Komphela recalled.

"He'd even put me through his driver to be dropped off at training for the national team. He'd go an extra mile to make sure everything was okay.

"He might not have had a degree or whatever, but he had a master's from the university of life... unbelievable human being."

Komphela continued: "When schools were closed, as I was studying teaching, his wife used to cook for me. I used to live with that family ngidla ipapa (eating pap) in their house.

Kaizer Chiefs chair Kaizer Motaung also expressed his heartfelt condolences to the Mokoena family.

He describes Mokoena as a long time colleague in football and a friend.

Mokoena founded Ea Lla Koto in 1977 in a village of Makwane in QwaQwa. The club gained promotion to the professional league in 1986 and in 1994 won the Coca-Cola Cup.

The club was bought by the league in 2002 when PSL reduced the number of clubs from 18 to 16.

In 2003, Mokoena returned to football after buying Ratanang Maholosiane's status and renamed it Free State Stars and the club gained promotion to PSL two years later.

The 68-year-old was a successful businessman and a soccer mogul.

He was also a member of PSL executive committee and the owner of Tshwara Thebe Construction which lays foundations for RDP houses across the Free State province.

The Stars chairman also had an empire comprising about 12 companies. His companies include MDC Catering services, Golden Pond Trading.

He leaves behind four children - Thapelo Mokoena, Rantsi Mokoena, Motebang Mokoena and Kgotso Mokoena.

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