It was a time of giants. Immovable and strong, they raved and they roared, dribbled and scored. The South African soccer player was one of the most monumentous figures you could be in 1996. Among the powerful gold, white and green army that swept the continent was a man with shoulders pulled back, chin tipped high eyes facing forward and focused – Sizwe “Four-by-Four” Motaung.
It is one of the more tragic tales of our footballing past. Sizwe, as a footballer and an athletic artist can be credited with delivering many smiles to the nation. Through his hard work and synchronicity with his teammates he managed to remain a steady rock in a tricky time for the country. At a time when uncertainty and instability were abound, there were few things for the nation to hold dear, and this is why we thank the universe for the creation of sports.
Bafana Bafana was a shining star for South Africa. It was a resilient and fearless team, much like the country. The individuals that made up that squad did a lot for the morale of those fortunate enough to be around at the time. Sizwe Motaung was one of these team members. The sad part is that a man who dedicated so much of his life to delivering joy onto others, died a largely neglected man from the people he used to serve.
Towards the end of his time it is reported that his most frequent visitors were Clive Barker, Steve Komphela. Fani Madida, and Phil Masinga. He spent his life being cheered on by crowds and lifting their spirits, only to lay in an empty stadium. Sizwe was an incredibly well known footballer. He played for Jomo Cosmos, Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs, and Orlando Pirates. He also featured for St. Gallen in Switzerland and CD Tenerife in Spain.
To top it all off, he notched up 49 impressive caps for Bafana Bafana. The lesson to take from this story is one that applies outside the football field.
You cannot divorce the team from the country. So with all the attributes that follow both (such as resilliance and fearlessness), so to do the flaws. Ours is a country plagued by various dangers that can affect anyone from the man on the street to the man in a Bafana Bafana jersey. Nothing in life can make you immune to the ills of society. We must learn from a giant of Sizwe Motaung’s stature, let his passing serve the purpose of education. No matter who you are, care must be taken, safe sex must always be the measure and protecting yourself for the sake of your family should be the walking stick that guides you on your path.
Sizwe died of AIDS at the age of 31, he died in his place of birth, close to Newcastle. After experiencing all the glory the world had to offer and making a respectable amount of money, he ended up being unable to be the breadwinner for his family. It truly is a sad story to tell, but it is not without its purpose.
Let us learn from Sizwe Motaung, and let us be forever grateful for what he did to fill our hearts in times of darkness through his footballing skill, as well as what he does for our minds now after his passing, to show us that there is a better way.
Thank you for the memories Sizwe, thank you for the lessons.
Rest In Peace Four-by-Four.