Legendary South African football administrator Abdul Bhamjee dies

File photo of South African football administrator Abdul Bhamjee.
File photo of South African football administrator Abdul Bhamjee.
Image: Cobus Bodenstein

Legendary South African football administrator Abdul Bhamjee has died aged 83.

Bhamjee, who died on Monday night, was one of the founders of the much-professionalised National Soccer League (NSL) when it broke away from the old National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1985.

The initial 78‚000-seater FNB Stadium‚ begun in Nasrec in 1986 and completed in 1989‚ is credited as having been his brainchild.

The NSL was the precursor to the current Premier Soccer League‚ and tapped into the potential of sponsorship and television broadcast revenue with far more effectively than previously.

As PRO‚ Bhamjee was known for the excitement and hype he brought to the new league.

Johannesburg resident Yusuf Stemela‚ a close friend of Bhamjee’s son‚ Mohamed Bhamjee‚ confirmed the news. He said Bhamjee’s funeral was taking place at Westpark Cemetery in Montgomery Park‚ Johannesburg on Tuesday morning‚ and it was unlikely a family member would answer their phones.

“Abdul Bhamjee had been living in Botswana‚ but his family had brought him back to Johannesburg because he was ill. He had been ill for some time‚” Stemela said.

The breakaway from the NPSL to the NSL was led by Kaizer Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung‚ NSL chairman Cyril Kobus and the new money-spinning league’s fast-talking PR head Bhamjee.

In 1991 Bhamjee was charged with‚ and later convicted of‚ fraud for the disappearance of R6‚5-million from NSL coffers just as South Africa was making overtures to return to international football.

He maintained his innocence‚ saying in press reports that he had been paid a 10 percent commission by the NSL because his sports goods shop in Fordsburg was suffering from his commitments made to the league.

Bhamjee had been a general-secretary of the Southern Transvaal Football Union and long-time campaigner and pioneer for multi-racial soccer.

There had already been some reaction to the news on social media.

Veteran journalist and broadcaster Tim Modise tweeted: “It feels like death notices are now a deluge. Abdul Bhamjee was a very important and colourful personality who brought the ‘Razzmatazz’ to football and turned it into an entertainment fiesta. He left his mark and I send condolences to his family.”

Black Leopards coach Dylan Kerr‚ who played for Pretoria-based Arcadia Shepherds in the 1980s‚ tweeted: “I would like to pay my respect to Abdul Bhamjee one of the great football administrators who has passed away.

“A great character for the NSL‚ he would always come see me in games telling me how good I was for SA football totally respected that. RIP‚ may his memory be blessed.”

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