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Tavern Talk: I Refused To Hug Thidiela

Rautmann has coached numerous teams, but had his ugliest spell in the Vodacom League with Value Rockets. “Referees came to training drunk and there was a lot of bribery there. I’ve never seen anything like that in my 35 years of coaching, he reveals.” He says he would like to help Moroka Swallows out of their current situation if given the chance.

Mr Fitness, who are some of the funny players you’ve coached?

The funniest one was Naughty Mokoena. Nobody wanted Naughty but I accepted him. I had him at Black Leopards and African Wanderers. There are many funny stories about him and I’ll never forget the one time when we were driving home after a game in Venda.

The trip took eight hours and Naughty never stopped talking in the kombi. For eight hours no one could sleep and no one could say anything, it was like the radio on! It was actually unbelievable. The other one was Jokhonia ‘Bull’ Cibi. He came to Tembisa Classic with me.

Once we played in Durban against AmaZulu. In the morning when I went to the hotel, I saw him and two other players completely drunk. They were singing and talking nonsense. When we flew home, it got bad because in the airplane they were insulting some people and shouting. They wanted to arrest them at the Jo’burg airport. I had to speak to the pilot and tell him to please leave them, that they were soccer players and had a bit too much. But I’m telling you, it was not a little bit, it was a lot! Afterwards I had to speak to the chairman and they had to release Cibi.

Have you ever encountered interference from club bosses?

No boss interfered with me ever! They knew my job. I had some club bosses phoning me and trying to interfere. There were three teams that I coached who looked set to escape relegation, but when the club bosses tried to interfere, I left them and they went down.

Tembisa Classic tried to do that. I left and they got relegated. The other team is Dynamos, then Swallows. The funny thing is that Swallows were behind Dynamos, with two games to go the two teams met at George Goch Stadium. The loser would be relegated. I had just left Dynamos, so the Dynamos officials phoned me, “Coach, coach, help us. You don’t have to beat us.” I said, “Yes, I love you guys!” Boom! We beat them 3-0 and I relegated them.

The other team is Real Rovers in Pietersburg. They mistreated me. I left them for Swallows again and I took Swallows out of the relegation zone. The last game of the season was Real Rovers against Swallows in Pietersburg. Real Rovers phoned me, “Coach, you are the king of Limpopo, the Lion of the North, you don’t need the points. Do something for us.” I said, “Yes, you guys mustn’t get relegated. I love you.” I went to my players and told them, “Listen, these guys want me to help them. Let’s go out and kill them.” With five minutes to go, Lucas Sebona scored a beautiful goal!

Ha, ha, ha.

When I saved Black Leopards from relegation, David Thidiela never interfered with me. The following season they asked me to help them again. I never dropped points in Thohoyandou. So we played against Jomo Cosmos and at halftime we were losing 1-0. Thidiela came into the change room and asked me, “Why don’t you play this or that player?” I said, “No, I’m the coach here.” He said, “Ja, ja, we’ll talk.” Naughty Mokoena was talking some nonsense too! We won 3-1 and after the game Thidiela wanted to hug me in front of the TV cameras and I said, “No, my friend! At halftime you wanted to insult me but now that we’ve won you want to be my friend.”

On Monday he sent me a letter stating that I was suspended for disrespecting him. That’s when I left the team. Another boss, ha, ha...was Petrus Molemela at Bloemfontein Celtic. He was a fanatic. He once punched Augusto Palacios, ha, ha, ha. I remember when Celtic played Kaizer Chiefs. Molemela was upset with the linesman and he ran with his umbrella towards the linesman. He wanted to hit the linesman! They took him out. After the game in the change room I told him, “How can you run after the linesman?” He started fighting with me. He took me by my arm into the toilet, ha, ha, and twisted my arm. I left Celtic because of that, ha, ha.

Did you ever get paid from the boot of a car like it was the case back then?

Plenty times! The worst one was at Pretoria Callies. Gordon Igesund was playing for me and there was another white player, Alex Heredia. We were beginning to get worried as we had to get home and we hadn’t been paid. The directors of the club came to me and said, “Coach, come, the players mustn’t see anything. Follow us.” It was winter, very cold and misty.

It was like a scene from horror movie Frankenstein. We had to go out of the township on back roads. Suddenly we came to a cemetery and they stopped there!

I thought, “Gordon, these guys are going to kill us! This is a cemetery! We’ve only lost one game and they are going to kill us!” Then one of the directors comes and says, “Coach, coach, come here!” I thought he was taking me to my grave, ha, ha, ha! We stood next to a grave and when he opened the boot of the car, I was like, “Oh no, what’s coming out here?” He took out a nice bag full of cash and he paid us our salaries. Can you believe it? It was at the cemetery at 23h30 in ice-cold weather!

Tell us about the mind games that teams used to play against each other before games.

The worst game of our lives was the relegation dogfight between Black Leopards and Dynamos in Giyani. It was two games before the season ended. You know how hot it is there. When we got there, we parked the kombi outside the stadium at around 13h00. Our guys went to look at where we were going to change and what the conditions were like. They came back and said, “Coach! Coach! The change rooms are locked. There is no water.” I said, “What is going on now?” They said, “They always do this on purpose.” So we could not use a change room and we had to change in the kombi! The supporters of Leopards brought some water from the shops, but the players were burning in the sun.

One can only imagine. Crazy stuff indeed!

The other scene was caused by us Leopards when we played Ajax Cape Town in Thohoyandou. Gordon was coaching them. I didn’t know what the club did or didn’t do before the game. I was standing outside by the gates. Suddenly I heard John Comitis screaming and shouting and Gordon running out of the change room. John kicked the door and told the security guy, “I’m going to kill you!” Gordon shouted, “These bastards have locked all the change rooms again. We cannot change and there is no water. We’re playing for our lives.” The police, the big fight, everybody punching and was madness!

Tavern of Legends Fun Facts:

Best player I’ve player I’ve ever coached: Sibusiso Dlamini

Best team I’ve ever faced: Kaizer Chiefs in the 70s

Best stadium: George Goch Stadium, ‘the graveyard’

Worst stadium: Independence Stadium

Former team that uses the most muti: Moroka Swallows

Favourite current player: Bongani Khumalo

Current occupation: Coaching youngsters and running coaching clinics

Teams coached: Rabali Blackpool, Tembisa Classic, Moroka Swallows, Black Leopards, Dynamos, African Wanderers, Bloemfontein Celtic, AmaZulu, Benoni United, Witbank Aces, PUBS, Dangerous Darkies, PJ Stars, Ga-Rankuwa United, Value Rockets (Vodacom League), Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland)

Click Here To Read more Gordon's Legends Tavern Talk Stories


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