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Banks And The Gangster Soccer Academy

Previously, we found out how Ace got involved in soccer. This time, it’s Banksie’s turn. Let’s find out how gangsters took Banks away from his first love – golf!


Peter: Gentlemen.

Ace: Cool and howdy.

Banks: Alive and kicking.

Peter: This week, we want to hear what got Banksie going in the beautiful game. 

Ace: The strange thing is that it was Buick, the gangster boss, who lived three houses from both of us, who was influential in Banks’ career, as well as in mine. Of course, you all heard my story last week. 

Banks: And it’s amazing that Ace and I are still very good friends with Buick to this day. Buick is no longer a gangster boss though, he now runs a tavern. 

Peter: Okay. Let’s go for it. Banksie, how did it all begin for you?  

Banks: The funny thing was that until the age of at least 15 years, I was not even that interested in soccer. Golf was my first love - golf was number one for me. As you can imagine, it was almost impossible for a poor township boy to play golf. I mean it’s a very expensive sport in terms of equipment and the golf courses are very expensive to create and to maintain. There were very few golf courses in the townships, hardly any, and they were not so well maintained. 

Ace: I told you, you should have stuck to soccer.

Banks: Hey … but still I made do and I loved the sport. I eventually became a scratch golfer, even though we didn’t play off handicaps or anything.

Peter: You were the first Tiger Woods!

Banks: Ja, ha, ha. So one day I had just played two rounds of golf, 36 holes, and I was very, very tired after finishing. While I was sitting on the steps next to the golf course, I saw the guys coming to fetch me to play in one of the ‘pick up’ games. Eventually they convinced me to come and play and I even had to put 5 bob, that’s the money we used in those days before rands and cents, into the soccer money for the game. As you know, the pick-up games between street teams were played for ‘winner takes all’ money.

Ace: This is now how Banksie became a goalkeeper. Golf made Banksie a goalkeeper.

Banks: Ja … until that day I was an outfield player, I played inside forward. But that day I was so tired I went to play in goals so that I could sit and rest while the game was on.

Ace: Tiredness made Banksie a goalkeeper ha, ha …

Banks: Man, it seemed so easy for me. I was only 15 but I was bigger than all the other players and I just reached every ball that came my way. It was as if I was meant to be a goalkeeper. Eventually we won the game and I got my money back, plus a share of the winnings … I felt good. 

Ace: After a few more pick-up games, everyone in Randfontein was talking about this new young goalkeeper. Soon Buick, the local gangster boss, also knew about young Joseph Setlhodi. This was before he became known as Banks. 

Banks: Buick was player, coach, manager … you name it of the second team of Randfontein Young Zebras. The team was going to play a game in Krugersdorp, where Ace is staying now. 

Peter: Ace, you’re a Krugersdorp boytjie, that’s boere territory, isn’t it? Ace, the boer!

Banks: Ja, ha, ha …

Ace: Hey! Kom nou mense … ha, ha. 

Banks: Ja, Ace, you’re not a midfielder any more, you’re a right winger … from Krugersdorp … ha, ha ...

Ace: Hey, hey … asseblief, ha, ha. Ek sal jou klap … ha, ha. 

Banks: Ha, ha. Okay, seriously now. One day I was playing golf as usual. In fact, I was practicing near the club house and I saw these four cars driving towards me. 

Ace: It was the mafia … the Randfontein mafia … Buick’s boys!

Banks: As we mentioned last week, in those days hardly anyone had a car. Only rich businessmen and gangsters. We didn’t see many cars around. So imagine me standing there watching the four cars full of men driving towards me. Hell, man, I just dropped the golf clubs and ran like a rabbit into the bushes.

Ace: The trouble was Buick and his men were like greyhounds because they soon caught up with Banksie. They told him in no uncertain terms that they had heard that he was a goalkeeper of great potential and from that day on he was the goalkeeper for Randfontein Young Zebras second team. 

Banks: Just like that ha, ha. I had no choice. Buick and his gang developed me there and then. It was the Gangster Soccer Academy. A one-day training course. You know gangsters make offers you can’t refuse … so that’s how I started my career in the lower professional ranks as a goalkeeper.

Peter: What a story.

Ace: But it doesn’t end there.

Banks: We went to play a game in Bekkersdal. The whole of Buick’s team was made up of his gangsters. Except me in goals. I was also big for a youngster. They were all adults. They gave me boots, socks, shorts and a goalkeeper’s jersey and said, “Don’t let any goals in, boy. Do you understand?” I was so shocked I started crying. I mean I was only a kid and suddenly I had been kidnapped to play in goals for this bunch of gangsters. Plus, I had only really played a few pick up games in goals. Never in a proper match with big goals. I wasn’t even sure if I was good enough. Yet now I was being threatened not to let any goals in. Hell, I was crying like a baby, I was so scared.

Peter: What did the gangsters do when they saw you crying? 

Banks: Ha, ha. They said I’d better stop or they’d give me something serious to cry about … ha, ha. 

Ace: Banksie stopped crying immediately ha, ha.

Banks: Ja … Buick then told me there was a big bet on this game so I’d better pull myself together and concentrate. I was still half crying between the poles when the game started. Even the opposition forwards noticed. Fortunately Buick scored three quick goals, he was a terrific player and soon we were leading 7-0 and I was feeling much better. I had even made a few easy saves and my confidence was high.

Ace: Banks was born. Joseph Setlhodi became ‘Banks’ Setlhodi.

Banks: Ja, in those days goalkeepers were not protected but Buick and the gangsters looked after me on and off the field. Soon my reputation grew and after four games I was playing in the Randfontein Young Zebras first team.

Ace: Soon the supporters gave him the nickname Banks after the great English goalkeeper Gordon Banks.

Peter: Actually, Gordon Banks came out as a guest star for Hellenic in the old white NFL. He broke his hand though in the second game against Germiston Callies at Driehoek Stadium. 

Ace: The story of how Joseph became Banks. As they say, the rest is history.

Peter: Fantastic.

Banks: After that, gents, we all have to take it easy, just like Sunday morning … ha, ha.



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