Clive Barker ‘deserved better’: Doctor Khumalo

Neil Tovey and Lucas Radebe carry the casket during the memorial service for Clive 'The Dog' Barker at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban on June 15 2023.
Neil Tovey and Lucas Radebe carry the casket during the memorial service for Clive 'The Dog' Barker at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban on June 15 2023.
Image: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

Former Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey said Clive Barker, the coach of the 1996 team that won the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), was the right fit for the demoralised team he took over in 1994.

Tovey said Barker was a supreme motivator who brought “self-belief” and “pure joy and happiness” to the squad.

The provincial memorial for Barker, who died in a Durban hospital aged 78 on Saturday, was held at Olive Convention Centre in the city on Thursday.

Dignitaries and players from clubs Barker coached — the Durban City side he led to league titles in 1982 and 1983, the Bush Bucks side he won the league with in 1995, AmaZulu and the Bafana team with which he won the Nations Cup and reached the 1998 World Cup — attended.

Tovey and midfield star Doctor Khumalo, one of Barker’s favourite players, spoke of how the coach turned a team that had some heavy defeats on South Africa’s return to international football — earning the nickname 4x4s for losses where they conceded four goals — into continental beaters.

“There’s loads of players who are here today who went through great times,” Tovey said.

“In all those clubs and teams there was one common denominator — Clive’s love for all those players.

“They were all great teams, great players, great combinations. They could not have been great teams without a mentor, a father figure who at any moment in time could not only solve your football problems, but also solve your domestic problems.

 “When Clive was asked to take on Bafana Bafana in 1994, we got together, just Clive and I — Clive asked me to meet him at Milpark Holiday Inn — and we had a discussion around, ‘Neil what can make this team tick?’ He said to me, ‘This team is loaded with talent’.

“And I said, ‘Clive, what you’re going to need to do is just be yourself', because in my past experiences with him at Durban City and AmaZulu, and my experiences with Bafana who I’d been with since 1992, was 'this team just needs love. And I know I don’t even have you ask you to do that because I know you will do it'.

“The players needed that bit of self-belief he brought to them, making them feel welcome at camp, and with him, that certainly would happen.

“When he came into camp, the environment was one .of pure joy and happiness. And when you have that enjoyment in your life, you’re going to certainly do it to the best of your ability. You’re going to play better, you’ll enjoy where you are.

“And you’ve got to understand the journey that was taken from 1992. From 1992 to 1994 Bafana was made up of club players who played against each other and [the squad] was fragmented.

“And then you had Clive Barker saying, ‘Forget about your clubs, you’re now coming to camp to perform as one team'.”

Bafana Bafana Class of 96 carry Clive Barker's casket, football legends follow at the memorial at Olive Convention Centre in Durban on June 15 2023.

Tovey said players in camps were allowed time off, “generally during the middle of the week”, to do as they pleased” by a coach known for his man-management skills.

Barker was known for allowing payers to go for a few drinks, asking them to not overdo it. And the ones who went out were the first in training.

Khumalo, who broke down and could not speak further at one stage, said he felt Barker had not received enough recognition for his role and legacy in South African football.

“I would like to say to Clive, 'Thank you very much for putting smiles on South Africans’ faces. Thank you Clive for moulding ‘4x4s’ to become champions. Thank you Clive for believing in us.' I think Clive deserves better.

“The reason I’m saying this is in 1994, and all the guys who were there will attest to this, he said to us he wanted to win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and in 1998 we would qualify for [the World Cup] in France. And that’s exactly what happened.

“I just want to say to him, ‘You have made our roles in South Africa’, you gave the squad of 1996 the chance to play overseas.”

Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.