Tributes for much-loved veteran sports journalist Louis Mazibuko

Former Sowetan journalist Louis Mazibuko.
Former Sowetan journalist Louis Mazibuko.
Image: Supplied

Veteran journalists whose careers crisscrossed that of Louis Mazibuko‚ the legendary football writer who died on Wednesday aged 69‚ described his eternally playful sense of humour‚ and lauded his contribution to his trade.

Mazibuko‚ the resident of Soweto popularly nicknamed “Figo” by his friends and colleagues‚ died on Wednesday in a Johannesburg hospital. The football writer had enjoyed a decades-long career for newspapers including Rand Daily Mail‚ Sunday Times‚ Sunday World and Sowetan.

Author and literary journalist Don Makatile worked with Mazibuko at Sunday World and Sowetan. He said while‚ for those who knew him‚ Mazibuko’s friendly spirit‚ mischievous humour and permanent smile will be remembered‚ the scribe’s contribution to South African football journalism should be equally memorialised.

“I met him first as a newspaper reader‚” Makatile said.

“He wrote boxing and soccer. He wrote about our sporting heroes. Long before I could even think of a career in journalism his name was among those already in my head.

“And Louis comes from that generation of sports writers – the guys he worked with at the Sunday Times. Remember he comes from the generation of Rand Daily Mail.

“They did the Sunday Times Extra – the wraparound‚ with sports at Orlando Stadium and wherever the game was played.

“‘Figo’ was as colourful as the personalities he wrote about. If you think about someone like Abdul Bhamjee‚ a very larger than life character – even if you had not met Bhamjee in person‚ he would come alive in Louis’s words.

“The character of Bhamjee would hit you out of the pages of Louis’s reportage. He wrote about people like Cyril Kobus – people who were bigger than the game.

“He was very close with Kaizer Motaung‚ with Jomo Sono. These are the people he socialised with. That is why it was so easy for Figo to get these stories that these wannabe scribes would only dream of.

“He was friends with [legendary journalist] Doc Bikitsha‚ who came a generation before him‚ and worked with him. And‚ if you know Bikitsha’s writing and ideas on writing‚ Figo worshipped Doc Bikitsha‚ and wanted to write like him.

“With speaking‚ Figo would speak to you in quotes‚ in an article. He was lyrical. Clichés that you and I would run away from he would spew out of his mouth‚ as if he was writing.

“Journalism for Figo was not a job‚ it was a lifestyle. The game is bigger than people in the boxing ring‚ it extends way beyond the players on the soccer pitch.

“Sometimes we honour the football administrators and the suits who run the games. Rarely do we look at people like Louis Mazibuko‚ who had such an influence in how the game was received.

“I never cared too much about match reports‚ because nine times out of ten I was at the game. But with Figo you wanted to compare the game to what was in the paper.

“Man‚ I just think that he was born for this. And I hope that the game will show him as much love as he did.

“I don’t expect a museum to be created in his memory. But let no-one forget Figo’s contribution to South African football.”

Legendary football writer Sy Lerman‚ who started his career in the early 1960s‚ helped show a young Mazibuko the ropes of the trade at the Rand Daily Mail in the 1970s and later worked with him at Sunday Times in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I worked with him for many years. In fact I’ve got a very interesting photo of him‚ Kaizer Motaung and myself at Orlando Stadium which must have been taken about 30 years ago‚” Lerman said.

“He was quite a character‚ Louis. A very sweet‚ likeable person and a very good guy. Nothing made him upset.

“Rand Daily Mail had a township edition that Louis wrote for‚ which had almost completely football‚ whereas the main edition had a balance of cricket‚ rugby and soccer. He was starting out then‚ and in the game for just a few years.

“If anything he was always wanting to please. As a journalist he wouldn’t like to be controversial if he could help it. He was one of those nice guys.”

Another football journalism legend‚ Mazibuko’s long-time sports editor and colleague at Sowetan‚ Sello Rabothata‚ said: “It was with great sadness to learn of Louis Mazibuko’s passing.

“While it was known that he’s not been well for quite some time‚ it still came as a shock especially since we buried his wife‚ Monica‚ not so long ago.

“One thing everyone who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Louis will attest to is that he was a very funny character‚ never angry‚ always joking around and making fun of everybody young or old.

“Louis never took things seriously except‚ of course‚ his work. Sometimes he would tell stories‚ which would leave you dumbfounded as to whether he was fooling around or not.

“One thing he had going for him was that he had the contacts that made our publication as great as it was and‚ I may add‚ respected. That I later became his boss was‚ unbelievably‚ also through his support.

“He was a senior to me because he had been in the craft long before I joined the fray. He showed and showered me with the utmost respect and I was always grateful for that.

“With Louis there was never a dull moment and he always had the newsroom in stitches whenever he walked in.

“He also took pride in telling whoever cared to listen that Orlando Pirates boss Irvin Khoza was his neighbour in Diepkloof. He would say how fortunate Khoza was to be his neighbour as it took special people for him to agree that ‘the Iron Duke’ could build his home there.

“My deepest condolences to his family‚ friends and former colleagues. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Mazibuko’s daughter‚ Zozo‚ said he died in Mulberton Hospital in Alberton after an illness became serious.

Monica Mazibuko died in August last year. Louis and Monica were married for 40 years.

- TimesLIVE

Source: ARENA Holdings.