We all need friends but those friends can either lift us up or bring us down. You’re only as good as the company you keep. There’s no doubt that when you hang around with good people, you become like them. But when you hang around with bad people, there’s a good chance that you’ll become even worse than them! This is the story of how Ace got mixed-up with hangers-on who were only interested in his money … and how his true friend Banksie saved him!
Banks: Alive and kicking!
Peter: What’s happening?
Banks: You know everyone talked about Jabu Pule (Mahlangu) and his drinking and drug taking, and how he had to go into rehabilitation to sort himself out.
Banks: Well, people are saying he had bad friends who were a bad influence on him.
Banks: Well, when we first started to play for Kaizer Chiefs, Ace also had bad friends who used to influence him badly.
Banks: No serious, Ace, you did. It’s important to tell the story - it will give today’s players a good example of how to sort this problem out.
Ace: Banksie, you give your version of the story and I’ll give mine.
Peter: Good … Banksie, you start.
Banks: Ace had these friends who never played soccer but they saw that Ace had money from soccer so they tried to influence him to stay with them to buy alcohol and not to go to soccer practice to train. There were no drugs in those days, only alcohol and of course dagga. But dagga was not something that Ace or myself ever got into.
Peter: So Ace had lots of things in common with Jabu Pule - Ace’s first name is Pule and he had some bad friends, only Jabu did not have you, Banksie, as a true friend.
Ace: Ha, ha … remember this is Banksie’s version. I am telling you I used to go and train regularly. Even on my own sometimes. In fact, a lot on my own … extra work to improve my game.
Banks: Ace, you’ll have your turn later. Now whenever I went to fetch Ace to take him to training, Ace’s friends would say, “Ace is not here. He’s already left for training.”
Ace: Ha, ha.
Banks: But when I got to training, Ace was not there and Ewert and Kaizer would be angry and tell me to sort things out with Ace.
Ace: Ey, Banksie!
Banks: So the next time I went to fetch Ace, I saw Ace and his buddies sitting under a tree. One of them saw me coming, they didn’t know that I had already seen Ace, and they must have told Ace because the next thing I saw Ace sneaking behind a house.
Ace: Ha, ha … come on, Banksie …
Banks: I went up to the first guy, the biggest guy there. I said to him, “Where’s Ace?” He stood up, I am 6ft 3 or 4 (1.9m) and he was almost as tall as me. I repeated the question, “Where’s Ace?” He said, “Ace is not here.” Bang! I hit him with a flat hand very, very hard across the head. Then I gave him a helluva hiding. The rest of his buddies jumped back, ready to scatter. They were scared that they would be next. I didn’t care how many of them there were. They were lazy cowards.
Peter: Don’t mess with Banksie.
Ace: Ha, ha … I remember this, Banksie was crazy.
Banks: Ja, while the guy was lying there, too afraid to get up, I said to him, “Next time I ask you where Ace is, you tell me.” He nodded very quickly. Ace had seen all of this and as I was leaving I heard him shout, “Hey, man!” The next thing he came running. “Let’s go to training,” is what he said. I almost gave him a klap as well.
Ace: Come on, Banksie.
Peter: What happened when you went to go pick up Ace from then onwards.
Banks: Ha, ha. When they saw me coming, they’d all get up, jump over fences, go behind the house. They’d just disappear, leaving Ace sitting under the tree on his own, ha, ha. I am telling you if I hadn’t been around, we wouldn’t know Ace Ntsoelengoe as we know him today, he would have been another victim of bad company.
Peter: They say you are only as good as the company you keep.
Ace: True …
Banks: You see even when Ace was older when he used to come back from America, all these hangers-on knew he had money and they would try to take it off him. Ace is a nice guy, so nice that he couldn’t say no. He’d be buying drinks for everyone and lending everyone money. Just giving it away. Kaizer and Ewert used to give me a car to go and find Ace at times.
Banks: In those days, during the season we only drank after games. If we played on the Saturday, we’d drink on the Saturday night and the Sunday. If we played on a Sunday, we’d drink on the Sunday night and the Monday. The rest of the week we were sober. Very seldom did we break that rule. Yet these so-called friends of Ace’s, these hangers-on used to try and get him out all the time so that they could spend his money. I used to have to come and sort them out regularly and drag Ace away. Ace was, even today, too generous.
Ace: What can I say?
Banks: Ace was always like my little brother. I was always looking after him. Or when he got into trouble, he’d come running and looking for me. So when Ace turned 50 recently, at the party at his house I made a speech. I gave Ace a bottle of brandy and a case of beer and said, “Ace, you’re 50 now, you can drink this stuff, you’re not my little brother anymore!”
Peter: Nice one. Well, guys.
Ace: After all this looking after Ace, I need to take it easy.
Banks: Ja, just like Sunday morning.