‘Little Napoleon’ is proud of his footballing family

Former Pirates goalscorer happy his son is lacing up his soccer boots

Benedict Vilakazi.
Benedict Vilakazi.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Benedict “Tso” Vilakazi, the highest scorer of all time for Orlando Pirates, beams with pride every time he remembers that his first-born son is following in his boot steps. 

Just as  his father was known for his ability to score and create goals,  the son of  former Pirates midfielder,  Thato Mohlamme, 23, was recently unveiled as one of the newest players at Richards Bay, where he will  also play as midfielder in the upcoming PSL season. 

Vilakazi, having lived up to his nickname  "Little Napoleon",   said he  encouraged Thato to bring his own spotlight to the game and not  bear the pressure of being  the son of a legendary footballer. 

“Although I was involved in guiding him here and there, I have made it clear to him that he doesn’t need to live under my shadow, he must pave his own journey,” said Vilakazi. 

“I know he is brave with a strong heart. I have also told him that he should always rise above his mistakes ... all he must know is that I have got his back.”

Thato Mohlamme of Richards Bay and Abbubaker Mobara of AmaZulu FC during the 2023 KZN Premier's Cup final match between Richards Bay and Amazulu FC at Princess Magogo Stadium on July 23, 2023 in Durban, South Africa.
Thato Mohlamme of Richards Bay and Abbubaker Mobara of AmaZulu FC during the 2023 KZN Premier's Cup final match between Richards Bay and Amazulu FC at Princess Magogo Stadium on July 23, 2023 in Durban, South Africa.
Image: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

He said  he understood Thato’s style of play because he has been in that same place. 

“One thing I tell him is that we don’t have a lot of midfielders who can score goals and he is aspiring to be that kind of player,” said Vilakazi. “I already know what is on his mind when he is on the field.” 

 Regarding Vilakazi’s own support structure, the former Mamelodi Sundowns player said Pitso Mosimane  was the person to thank for the role he played in his career. After school, the Masandawana former head coach would pick up Vikalazi  for training every day. 

"That is why even today, I still respect him because he would use his own money to pick up upcoming players and transport them, that is how passionate he is about soccer. 

“I was blessed to see his passion for football and experienced it. He and the late Ted Dumitru were very supportive. The coach understood my background, so he would drop me off at home even after training,” said Vilakazi. 

As part of giving back, Vilakazi applied to be a coach at Pitso Mosimane’s Soccer Schools as this would put his newly obtained CAF C Licence to good use. 

“I went through the whole interview process, they told me they were happy. However, by the time they called me to start, I was committed to another school because they only called me this year in March,” he said.

“I am coaching a school team now and I am waiting for the right opportunity to come. It’s a way of giving back as well. Development is the most crucial part of football. I have been coaching since my retirement in 2013.”  

He hopes that in the future, he can  impart his knowledge at the school. 

Vilakazi said playing in the Schools Football World Cup in 1997 paved  the way from Diepkloof Hellenic all the way to the PSL. .  

“I was called to represent SA in Peru, in South America. I went to play for my school and we got knocked out of the tournament in the semifinals.  

“When I came back from the World Cup, I was told that I must look for a team I can play for in the PSL because I had advanced skills and there was worry that my talent would be wasted.” 

He couldn’t believe it when Irvin Khoza and Augusto Palacios knocked on his door to recruit him into Pirates, who he played for from 1999 to 2007. 

“They spoke with my dad, explaining to him that they would like me to join the club. The other players I found at Pirates were  very supportive and taught me a lot about life. The technical team showed humility when I got there. I had a lot of players to look up to,” he said. 

Vilakazi attempted to play cricket before taking up football, until what he calls a memorable day. 

“I remember one day at school, there was a guy who was absent for a soccer game. I was told to be his replacement for that specific game. At first I refused, but they convinced me, and I gave in.

“I was so scared. I took a chance and after that game most people advised me to forget about cricket and play football. I juggled both until I decided I was going to stick to soccer because in cricket, the game would take the whole day and I didn’t want to take the whole day participating in any kind of sport,” he said.

Vilakazi, who  hopes his goal of coaching in the PSL  will be achieved one day, religiously supported Kaizer Chiefs as a young boy.  

“I used to be a Chiefs fan but now I just watch football. I feel like I don’t see Kaizer Chiefs material – we all know the type of players who should be playing for that club. 

“The people who used to be Chiefs material were the likes of Scara Ngobese, Jabu Mahlangu, Scara Thindwa...” 

After finishing his Fifa diploma in football medicine recently, Vilakazi plans to go to Botswana for more coaching badges. He continues to deliver insightful analysis  on YouTube as a football analyst for iDiski TV. 

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