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Tavern Of Legends: The Start Of My Bafana Career

In every football loving country, the ‘beautiful game’ always allows for legends to be born.

Becoming a legend happens not because of one game, one goal or one single moment, but is rather a status afforded to players who have consistently produced the goods. 

They are players who have not on the odd occasion been heroes, but who have, due to their sustained excellence, been anointed by the public as legends of the game. What many people fail to recognise is that for every legend that is made, there are legendary stories to tell about the path they travelled to reach the pinnacle of success.

Mark Williams’ name is synonymous with the Bafana Bafana success of years gone by, having most notably helped the national team to win the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. But every journey starts with a single step and, in this Gordon’s Gin Tavern of Legends feature, the former lethal striker talks about the unforgettable moment he donned the Bafana jersey for the first time. 

Debuting for Bafana Bafana

It was against Cape Verde... the proudest moment of my career! Here I was, a South African, finally fulfilling the dream of playing for my country. That was the first time I had been called up and the coach started me. He took me off in the second half because I didn’t score, but it was a great experience.

You must understand that coming from Cape Town and playing for Bafana at the time was very difficult. It was only through sheer luck that you’d be part of the national team because usually it was players from Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns who were selected.

If you played for the big teams, you were almost guaranteed a spot in the national team. For me, playing for Hellenic and being a Bafana player was good, but at the same time I also wanted to make sure that I stayed there and cemented my name in the team. I had nerves, but didn’t show them.

What I believed was that I had a gift to score goals. When I went out onto the field, I always remained calm. Believe me, I used to listen to songs, I used to sing and it took the pressure away.

Being called up from a 'small team'...

I could go into politics where a lot of coaches didn’t want to play me because of my skin colour, although I’m not going to mention names. Some other coaches didn’t like me because I said it like it was. Remember I was the Top Goalscorer and I believe that in any country, if you are the Top Goalscorer, you should play... be it in Spain, England, Italy or Germany.

It doesn’t matter what! Sometimes I wasn’t part of the national team and then I would go to the newspapers and just have a go, saying I don’t understand why they didn’t play me.

But I also told myself that it’s okay, I’ll just score goals in the PSL, become the Top Goalscorer and they’ll have to call me. A lot of times I was called up, dropped, called up, dropped. I was part of the era of Neil Tovey, Mark Fish and Lucas Radebe and they all reached 50 caps. I’ve got 26 caps. I mean, it’s a joke! But anyway, what’s important is that I knew I would have my break. When? I didn’t know, but I knew that there was going to be a place and time.

Serving as motivation to others

We had good players from Cape Town that could play in the national team, like Carlos das Neves, Reggie Jantjies and Taswald Human. But because they were in Cape Town, they were never going to get a proper chance. Duncan Crowie played one game against Cameroon in Cape Town and I remember when the coach was saying to the players in the dressing room, “Well, I must put in the fans’ favourite.” I was playing and then he took me off and shouted to Duncan to get ready come on. But he didn’t call him by name and said, ‘Fans’ favourite’ because the fans wanted him on.

He said it in Xhosa and they didn’t understand, but I did. You get negatives and positives and we can talk about it all day, but playing for my country was the biggest thing. I always wanted to play for my country. I didn’t understand what was wrong with these coaches not playing me. But like I said, there’s a place and time and you must have patience. For example, I think Keagan Dolly will get there. He must just work on his game and he’ll get there one day.   

Discover your inner legend

Like Mark Williams mentioned in this feature, he did not allow playing for a so-called small team hinder his burning desire to represent his country. He knew he had it in him to achieve bigger things and showcase his talents on a bigger platform. Then he went on to do just that and it was all thanks to finding the inner legend within him.

A far cry from these days, the media coverage wasn’t great for teams like Hellenic, the pay was meager and the country’s scouting networks weren’t as big as they are nowadays, and yet he beat the odds. You too, by finding your inner legend, can become the next Mark Williams.

When Alexander Gordon first set out to create his gin recipe in 1769 he wanted it to be unique. Unlike the other gins of the time his would be made of only the finest, purest ingredients; sourced from around the world – all 120 of them. It was no easy feat, but in the end he succeeded in creating the iconic Gordon’s Gin we love today… one that set the standard high above all others.

Gordon realised that what you put in you get out, and that legends aren’t born – they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work and determination. These are the “ingredients" that give rise to legends. That’s why Gordon’s Gin is looking for people who share their philosophy. Someone who remains steadfast in the face of adversity – who never gives up until he’s, achieved his goals. We are looking for the next Gordon’s Legend. 

If you think you’ve got what it takes, enter the Gordon’s Legend competition today. Visit your nearest participating outlet, find Gordon’s on Facebook and Mxit to enter and stand a chance to discover your inner legend and be rewarded with a R150 000 7-day legendary getaway for 4 and R50 000 in cash. But hurry, the competition closes 31 October!   

Visit your nearest participating tavern or store for more information and get in the mix on Facebook & Mxit. 

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