Back to the past, back to the legends with Ace and Banks. This week, our football maestros tell us about the late Ronnie "Garris" Shongwe. Now Ronnie was a real character – a tsotsi who struck fear in the hearts of his opponents by whatever means necessary. Discover why Ronnie scared Ace but was no match for Kaizer!
Peter: Howzit, guys?
Banks: Alive and kicking.
Ace: Cool and howdy.
Peter: One of our Soccer Laduma readers wants to know about the late Ronnie "Garris" Shongwe. Garris was a notorious hard man on the football field who wasn’t afraid to resort to ‘rough house’ tactics to scare his opponents.
Banks: Eish, Ronnie, he was a rough tough right back – a very robust defender.
Ace: Ey, Ronnie was a tsotsi, he was crazy... wild and the kind of player who thought nothing of kicking the hell out of you and doing everything in his power to stop you.
Banks: You can pick any hard or dirty player in the PSL today and he would never compare to Ronnie "Garris" Shongwe. He was one of a kind. The guy was, as Ace said, a tsotsi and he had his own gang, like a mafia, so he was always protected off the field. On the field, he was mad.
Peter: Let’s hear some examples.
Ace: Well, whenever there was a derby between Chiefs and Pirates, it would bring out the best, or rather the worst, in Ronnie Shongwe. Ronnie hated to lose and he was a rough tough guy so he would do anything to scare you.
Peter: Like what?
Ace: As soon as he got near you on the field, he'd start swearing – screaming and shouting at us. He'd call us names, insult our mothers. He'd even tell us he’d kill us after the game. You must remember that this type of behaviour was not common in our league.
Banks: Players never swore or insulted each other in those days.
Peter: Actually, in the white NFL it was common. White players would swear and insult each other to try to unsettle the opposition.
Ace: You're right, because the first time I encountered the swearing and insults on the field was when I played overseas in America. We were not used to using the F-word all the time, but white players, especially the ones born in England and Scotland, used the F-word all the time.
Ace: In fact, it took time for me to swallow that it was normal for the English to use the F-word all the time. Everything was F this, F that. I remember once at training when I first got to the US, my own teammate started swearing at me at training. The next thing I just lost my cool – I went wild, ran up to him and kicked the hell out of him … ha ha.
Peter: That doesn’t sound like the Ace we know … ha ha.
Ace: Ja… then the coach, who was English as well, told me that it's just the way they talk in England and Scotland – it's cultural. And then I explained that we don't swear in South Africa, and that is our culture. When that was done, then everything was okay, and I just accepted all the swearing.
Banks: It seems like Ronnie Shongwe thought he was English or maybe, Ace, he was just preparing you for the American Soccer League, ha ha.
Ace: Ja … ha ha.
Peter: Okay, let’s get back to Ronnie. So he was a really bad guy on the field and a tsotsi off the field.
Banks: Ha ha, that's right.
Ace: You know, I knew his reputation and in those days I was not so used to Soweto, I was still a teenager, I was very young. One day Ronnie, a real tsotsi of Soweto, said to me on the field that if I beat him with the ball then he'd stab me after the game... I became really scared, I knew you didn't mess with these guys.
Peter: So what did you do?
Ace: Ha ha... I kept away from him. I went to play on our right side of the field, not on his side of the field, ha ha.
Banks: But Kaizer Motaung sorted Ronnie out.
Ace: Man... Kaizer was from Phefeni, Kaizer was the man. He knew Soweto inside out, he was Soweto – he knew everyone in Soweto and everyone knew Kaizer. Kaizer had his own mafia, if you know what I mean, and he didn't care about Ronnie Shongwe. Kaizer wasn't scared of Ronnie – he didn't need to be.
Banks: Ronnie's friends meant nothing to Kaizer and probably Ronnie was even scared of Kaizer.
Ace: Banksie, tell everyone about that derby against Orlando Pirates when Kaizer destroyed Ronnie and the Pirates defence.
Banks: Oh yes, but, hell, there is another story about that game as well.
Peter: What’s that?
Banks: It was the first and only time that an Orlando Pirates-Kaizer Chiefs derby was played at Meadowlands Stadium. For some reason, Orlando Stadium was not available. Hell, the stadium was so full, it took us one hour to get from the stadium entrance on to the pitch. Supporters were everywhere, even almost on the field... on the roof of the stadium – everywhere! I was so scared... I mean a disaster could have happened any second. It was very scary and we were extremely lucky there wasn't a tragedy.
Ace: It was dangerous, very dangerous.
Banks: Orlando Pirates were leading 1-0, Tiger Motaung had scored. Then Kaizer got his act together. You know, in his day, Kaizer could do wonders. In that game, Kaizer was on song. Kaizer, as we all know, was an ex-Orlando Pirates player and he was always at his best against them.
Ace: He was like Black Magic, he was terrific and he could dribble like anything. Kaizer was tearing Pirates apart and scored two goals to make it 2-1 to us.
Banks: But then, against the run of play, Pirates scored a second goal and it was 2-2. I can't remember who scored. Then, a little later in the game, Kaizer got the ball on the halfway line and ran straight at Ronnie Shongwe with the ball. Ronnie started backpedaling, you know, trying not to commit himself to the tackle.
Ace: Kaizer was on his own up front because we had just cleared the ball for a corner. It was just Kaizer running at Ronnie with two Orlando Pirates defenders running towards them, one on each side of Kaizer, also chasing him.
Banks: Can you imagine the scene? Kaizer, at his best, dribbling the ball very fast. Ronnie backpedaling and two Orlando Pirates defenders running straight for Kaizer on either side of him to make a slide tackle...
Ace: The score was 2-2, very tense... with only a few minutes to go. The Pirates defenders were desperate and Ronnie was screaming, swearing and pointing, all at the same time.
Banks: Kaizer was clever, he speeded up even more and at the moment he got right in front of Ronnie, he made sure the ball looked free and at the same time the two defenders arrived and they all thought they could win the ball and crunch Kaizer.
Ace: Ha ha.
Banks: But Kaizer was too clever and at precisely the right moment he stopped dead and pulled the ball back. The three defenders all collided with each other and hit the deck in a huge bundle!
Peter: Ha ha.
Banks: Ha ha. Yes, and Kaizer dribbled the goalie to score.
Banks: Mhmm, ja, the ref disallowed it. He said Kaizer must have fouled them! Because it was all so fast and Kaizer was so brilliant. You know, from where I was in goals, I also thought he must have fouled them because of the way the Orlando Pirates defenders all collapsed.
Ace: But he didn't … Kaizer was just skilful and clever.
Banks: Although I think the ref disallowed the goal because he felt with two minutes to go, 2-2 would be a safer result. A 3-2 victory for Kaizer Chiefs may well have caused a riot in such a jam-packed stadium, and then we would have all been in trouble. So maybe it's just as well that Kaizer's winning goal was not to be.
Ace: It was the safest result.
Banks: Ja, so Ronnie and his knife and his tsotsi friends didn't scare Kaizer.
Ace: Those were the days…
Banks: Yes, the late Ronnie Shongwe was another character from our days…
Peter: Well, guys... another enjoyable story… till next week.
Ace: Take it easy.
Banks: Just like Sunday morning.