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Tavern of Legends: I Spent 18 Months On The Bench

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.

Mike Mangena is regarded as a legend for his goalscoring exploits with Kaizer Chiefs, Wits, Bush Bucks, Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns.

He was a striker who knew the path to goal. But the journey to the top is never easy and it takes one moment to turn potential failure into incredible success. In this Gordon’s Gin Tavern of Legends feature, Mangena talks about what that special moment was for him.

The beginning...

“Mine was a bit rocky. I joined Kaizer Chiefs in 1978 as a young boy and it was not easy to break through to the first team. I’m talking about a team that had huge established names like Jan ‘Malombo’ Lechaba, Teenage Dladla, Computer Lamola, Leonard ‘Wagga Wagga’ Likoebe and Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe. Even then, I believed in my abilities. I was there because it was meant to be and God said to me that I should be there with those stars. If you’re going to play football, you’re going to play with those people. These were stars that I used to idolise because I grew up supporting Chiefs. I found things difficult indeed and in 1979 I was loaned out to Wits. That is where everything started. I just want to tell the story of how I was picked for Chiefs from all the reserve players that were playing against the first team the one day. “

How things changed…

“I remember I arrived late at training because I was coming from work. I was playing for the Chiefs reserve team and, when I got there, they’d already picked the team that was going to play against the first team. I said to myself, ‘Here I am, losing an opportunity of showcasing my talent.’ When I got there, there was a guy – his nickname was ‘Koei’ (Afrikaans for cow) – who was set to play, but he was shivering. The nerves just got the better of him and he said to me, ‘You know what Mangena? No, man… I’m not myself today.’ I said, ‘No, give me the jersey and I’ll start.’ That was the turning point because I got in there and really played well. Out of everyone, Kaizer Motaung said after the game, ‘I want this youngster.’ When you look back it at, you realise that it was meant to be. That was the beginning of the journey right there at that game. From then on I played a few games for the first team, but I had not yet fully developed. The potential was there though. All I needed was to be trained and nurtured.”

Staying patient…

“That’s when I was loaned to Wits. You know, I remember even when I arrived there, you could see that there was talent, but I was not yet at that level to play consistently in the first team. I sat on the bench for about 18 months! It was only after that, after being fully developed, I started playing. I could do anything on the pitch. You know the background that we came from was very disadvantageous. For example, our diet was not the type of diet that was special in any way. We’d have bread and tea, or pap and tea as a pre-match meal. This is the same stuff you’d eat back home as well, so it was tough. But, I must say, it was a journey worth taking. You learn and you grow as a person.”

Nelson Mandela’s wise words

“You know what? I want to tell today’s up-and-coming footballers that they must have courage, even when things don’t go well. They must not just throw in the towel. They must soldier on. When one door closes, 10 more doors open. Nelson Mandela once said, ‘It’s not about how many times you go down and fail. It’s about how many times your pick yourself up from that failure.’ And it’s so true... You have to pick yourself up and ultimately you will reach your goal.

The legend lives on…

Only a true legend can stand the test of time - like Gordon’s Gin. So too can Mike Mangena lay claim to being a seasoned legend who has seen and done it all.

Having started out in the Kaizer Chiefs reserve side in 1978, he never gave up hope that he would one day make the breakthrough and, as luck would have it, he eventually had the chance to rub shoulders with some of the best players that his generation had to offer. At the age of 20, he was sent out on loan to Wits University and, after doing so well at The Students, he secured a permanent move to the club where he would go on to make more than 100 appearances and score 45 goals in three years.

Nicknamed ‘Sporo’, Mangena also had stints with English side Watford, Durban Bush Bucks, Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns, before returning to where it all started – the Amakhosi. He helped the side win the BP Top 8, JPS Cup and BobSave Super Bowl. He would retire at the Soweto giants in 1990, having well and truly earned legendary status for his goalscoring exploits.

His longevity in the game is unmatched, as he is still currently involved in unearthing up-and-coming talent at grassroots level and the analysis of football matches on TV. More recently, he has been part of the Nedbank Ke Yona campaign, along with Shakes Mashaba and Khabo Zondo, scouring the length and breadth of the country in search of the finest Mzansi talent.  

Made from juniper berries, containing 120 botanicals and triple-distilled for a unique complex taste, Gordon’s Gin is the product of a legendary recipe, unchanged for 245 years and known only to 12 people around the world.

Gordons Gin is a legend in its own right, which is why they are looking for the next Gordons legend, to acknowledge the trailblazers, the movers and the shakers.

Discover your inner legend by entering the See Yourself as the Next Legend competition, and you could be rewarded with a 7-day legendary getaway for four valued at R150 000, as well as R50 000 in cash!

Enter the competition and you could discover your inner legend and be rewarded with a R150 000 7-day legendary getaway for 4 and R50,000 in cash!

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

Tavern of Legends: They Had Snakes For Meals!


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