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Tavern Talk: 'Mike, Stop It! What's Wrong With You?'

Formerly on the books of Moroka Swallows, Ntsoelengoe is currently one of the legends who are teaching life skills to the current generation.

Known as a tough-as-teak midfielder in his day, he was once in a tussle with then Orlando Pirates star Perry Mutapa, which resulted in the latter losing his front tooth.

Who was your funniest coach ever, Ace?

We had this Brazilian coach at Moroka Swallows. If we were playing on a Saturday, he’d make us do aerobic exercises on the Friday. He never believed in taking only 18 players to camp. He’d just say, “All of you! Come tomorrow!” Imagine how the whole squad would fit in the bus. We had to make special transport arrangements for the other players, ha, ha.

The change room was very small and we would be cramped in there. He would select his starting XI before the game and not even mention who was going to be on the bench. He also wouldn’t tell us how we were going to approach the game. We played with one striker, with the other players defending. I remember we played six draws in a row and our boss, the late David Chabeli, eventually had no choice but to fire him!

Ha, ha, ha.

Then there was Mike Mangena. He once arrived late in camp before a game against Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium. We were waiting for him so we could have our team talk. Sundowns were powerful then, with players like Raphael Chukwu, Roger Feutmba, Alex Bapela, Daniel Mudau and Themba Mnguni on their books.

He came in and said to us, “Hey gents, you know what, I didn’t sleep last night.” We asked, “What, Bra Mike?” He said, “I dreamt that we were beating Sundowns.” Ha, ha, ha, he said he dreamt we won 7-0! I mean, Sundowns were winning league titles left, right and centre in those days, so we just couldn’t help but laugh.

The other time we went to play Manning Rangers at Chatsworth Stadium. When we got there, Mike went up to their coach Gordon Igesund, who was standing by himself. He patted him on the back and said, in that aggressive voice of his, “I’m going to beat you today.” Gordon was a bit taken aback, and in his small voice, he said, “Mike, stop it! What’s wrong with you?” Then Mike said, “Hey shut up! I said I’m going to beat you, or you want us to fight now?” Ha, ha, what a character!

Legendary stuff!

He always wanted Jeff Mazibuko and Edward Motale to kick the ball upfront and not take too many touches at the back, but they were against this. When they had the ball, he would stand up from the bench and scream, “Jeff! Edward! Kick the ball upfront!” But they never listened to him and they’d just build up from the back. So he got angry and shouted, “Jeff! Edward! I’m not coaching you anymore!” Ha, ha, ha.

Ha, ha... what about Pitso Mosimane?

Ah, he was also funny! He was always fired up when we were playing derby games against Mamelodi Sundowns. On match day, after gaining entrance into our change room, he’d kick the door and start telling us, “It’s war today! I’ll fight those Europeans on the bench. You fight them on the field!” Sundowns were coached by Angel Cappa back then. Then Pitso would start speaking in Greek. In fact, whenever he was angry, he’d start speaking in Greek.

Peter Khoabane was a very rough player at training and he would tackle our youngsters Thando Mngomeni and Sibusiso Mahlangu like nobody’s business and this would get Pitso angry. Yeah, at SuperSport I also enjoyed my time. When we went to play a Caf Champions League game in Senegal, the people there threw stones at us! Kaitano Tembo was a character and always made noise. He would shout at you, “Ah! Malaka! Malaka!”

Let’s move on to hilarious stories.

There is this one that the guys like talking about even to this day. See, I couldn’t swim. We were coached by Walter da Silva and Zeca Marques. We arrived in camp in the afternoon and had some free time, so some of the mlungu players decided to go to the swimming pool.

They started wearing shorts and dived into the water. I don’t know what got into me that day, but I felt the urge to also join in. I took off all my clothes and also dived in. The next thing, everyone is getting out of the water in panic! Ha, ha, ha. I was like, “What’s going on here?” The other guys told me, “Ace, how can you go into the swimming pool naked? You’re scaring the mlungus! Are you mad?” Ha, ha, ha, I wasn’t used to swimming, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem if I went in with only my birthday suit on.  

Ha, ha, go on...

One time we were playing Santos in the BobSave Super Bowl. Whenever we played them, our coach would tell Marc Batchelor to play in defence and mark Jean-Marc Ithier. The score was 1-1 and in the last minute, Ithier elbowed Batchelor and went on to score the winning goal. At the end of the game, Batchelor told him, “I won’t forget what you did to me. I’ll kick you next time.” Three weeks later we flew down to Cape Town for a league game against Santos. Before the game, Batchelor came up to me and said, “Remember what that bastard did to me?” I said, “Yes, I remember!”

Then he told me he was going to f**k him up! In the first minute, he hit him with his elbow in the eye and he started bleeding. The referee had to stop the game while he was being attended to and he had to eventually go out. Meanwhile, Batchelor went to the touchline and whispered to Ithier, “Remember what you did to me? I told you I’ll get you.” Ha, ha... it was very sad, but then we hadn’t forgotten that they prevented us from getting into the final with Sundowns. Yeah, Marc was such a feisty character and once fought with Naughty Mokoena at training!

Yho!

Ja, but the white guys in the team were really cool and mixed with everyone. Our goalkeeper Jorge Fernandes was such a character and was full of s**t! He would swear if you let the opposition through on goal at training. He was the complete opposite of his friend Wendell Robinson, who was composed no matter what the situation. Mark McVeigh was crazy too! He liked to dance when he was drunk, ha, ha. He always compared himself with David Beckham.

Any incidents on the field?

We played against Kaizer Chiefs one time. Naughty Mokoena and I were playing in central midfield and we came up against Patrick Mbuthu. Naughty and Patrick were clashing throughout the game. The one would say, “Hey, who are you?” and the other would retort, “Hey, f**k off man!” Naughty was a noisy guy.

You know, at school back then, when you wanted to have a fight with someone after school, you would say, “After school, after school!” So I heard Naughty telling Patrick, “After game, after game, I’m going to kill you!” Ey, we just laughed! It became clear to us that Naughty was the type that always fought ‘after school’, ha, ha.

Tavern of Legends Fun Facts:

Best player I’ve ever faced: John Moeti

Best player I’ve played with: Naughty Mokoena

Biggest pay cheque: R25 000

Smallest pay cheque: R3 000

Former team that used the most muti: Moroka Swallows

Favourite current player: Andile Jali

Current occupation: Member of Show Me Your Number (Life Skills programme)

Former teams: Moroka Swallows, SuperSport United, Maritzburg United

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