Celebrating Mzansi’s Great Leaders
Soccer Laduma and Ballantine’s Blended Scotch Whisky celebrate eight great Bafana Bafana captains and their career achievements at the helm. Captains often vary in style and approach - some are very vocal and imposing figures who make their presence and feelings known to their squad, while others adopt a quieter, more subtle approach, choosing instead to lead by example and let their football do much of the talking.
Regardless of their differing styles, these Mzansi greats have all had a massive impact on SA football. This week we feature Neil ‘Mokoko’ Tovey, arguably Bafana’s most famous skipper.
The first and most famous
Following years of exclusion from the privileges of international football, South Africa’s 11 players, in a historic moment, were led by Neil Tovey out of the tunnel at Durban’s 40 000 capacity King Park’s Rugby Stadium, in what was a deeply emotional journey onto the pitch to face the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. Neil Tovey kept his and his teammates’ nerves tightly in check on that 7 July afternoon in 1992 to secure a 1- 0 victory over the West Africans. Born in Pretoria and raised in Durban, ‘Mokoko’ could never have guessed that four years later he would be celebrating AFCON victory side by side with Nelson Mandela, captured forever in one of Mzansi’s most recognisable images.
Leading Mzansi’s biggest club
In the famous gold and black of Kaizer Chiefs, Tovey was also one of South Africa’s model football captains, with his consistent leadership, decision-making skills and an ability to motivate the players around him a permanent feature of his game. The recipient of Kaizer Chiefs’ Chairman’s Award earlier this year in May, Tovey admitted that joining Amakhosi in 1990 and spending a decade at the football club was a major career milestone because playing for the Amakhosi was the highest honour a footballer could achieve in South Africa, especially during those years in sporting isolation.
The best captains live on forever
The greatest moment in Neil Tovey’s football career was, with little doubt, the AFCON 1996 crowning glory. With 80 000 spectators screaming deliriously at the FNB stadium, and with Nelson Mandela beside him and millions of proud South Africans watching on television, Tovey, displaying characteristic emotional discipline, lifted African football’s most coveted trophy to the heavens. Subsequent Bafana Bafana captains have attempted to replicate Tovey’s legacy, yet none have achieved it and, to this day, he is the only Bafana captain to have achieved this feat. Tovey, who is still intimately involved in South African soccer as SAFA’s technical director, will always be known for showing incredible drive in improving his own game and that of those around him, never accepting failure as an option and tirelessly honouring the role of a great leader!