Soccer Laduma readers, as you know, generally in soccer, the rule is that you don’t eat a big meal before a game. A full stomach and peak performance on the field just don’t go together. Or do they? In soccer, as in life, there’ salways an exception to the rule. And this exception came in the form of Sputla Nhlapo. With a name like ‘Sputla’, you’d think the player’s weakness would be home-brews. But, no, Sputla’s weakness was food! Listen to the story of how Sputla ate breakfast, lunch … and then sneaked another huge meal in before the game. But you can’t fool Banks for long … Find out how Banks and Teenage caught Sputla eating his secret meal and what they did about it …
Peter: Mr Ntsoelengoe and Mr Setlhodi, gentlemen of soccer...
Banks: And kicking.
Peter: Great... Okay, guys, what’s up?
Banks: Ace and I were talking the other day about some of the funny and strange characters we had at Kaizer Chiefs.
Ace: And it reminded us of a story about Sputla Nhlapo.
Peter: Yes, we featured Sputla on the Golden Oldies page a little while ago. A brilliant right winger, a true winger as we used to have them in the old days.
Ace: Yes … you know Sputla was very skillful and he was very quick, especially over the first 10 yards. Even though he was right footed, he could play with his left as well... Actually, he was a magic player. Also, he was a quiet guy, but once he got to know you and he felt at home then he would become a jolly fellow.
Banks: Ja, he was a nice guy, very modest. But this story is about something Sputla could do that I think no man on earth, no matter his size, could do.
Peter: What’s that? Because Sputla was a skinny guy...
Ace: Ha, ha.
Banks: Peter and the Soccer-Laduma readers, let me tell you that even though Sputla was so skinny, he could eat... And when I say eat … I mean eat! He could eat a whole ox on his own, man.
Ace: Ha, ha...Sputla could eat for South Africa. It was unbelievable. At breakfast before games at the hotel, you know normally you get 2 slices of toast with your meal. Sputla would have 9! Sometimes you couldn’t see him from behind all his food, ha, ha...serious! I don’t know where that food used to go, because he stayed so thin.
Banks: He ate as if the food was going to run out one day. I’ve never seen anyone, even a very, very fat man, eat as much as Sputla. I mean Sputla was tiny.
Ace: Listen to this story... We all knew Sputla ate a lot. What we didn’t know was how much he was really eating when we couldn’t see him...
Peter: Hell, it sounds like he was an eating machine.
Banks: Ha, ha… listen… I had taken over as coach and Teenage was my assistant. We had arranged that on the day of the game we’d have breakfast at 7am, then a light session, then a very light lunch, and then prepare for the game at 3pm. It was well planned and very professional.
Ace: At breakfast, all of us would have something light. Some players even preferred to miss breakfast, sleep late, and then have the light lunch. But Sputla was always the first at breakfast and the last to leave. He’d eat everything.
Banks: Yes, he’d eat a lot but we knew he had a massive appetite and we were only going to play at 3pm, which gave him enough time to digest the food. I’d watch him when we had the light lunch so that he didn’t overeat. I thought I had it all worked out.
Ace: Ha, ha… No, you didn’t, Banksie!
Peter: No? Okay, what happened?
Banks: After the light lunch, the players had to go to their rooms to relax for a few hours before we left for the stadium. To relax and focus, you know. Also, I would visit some of the players in their rooms to go through a few individual things I wanted them to be aware of in the game. The only trouble was that I couldn’t find Sputla.
Ace: Ha, ha…
Banks: Well, after the game, Teenage told me that Sputla had sneaked away to the Fontana, a takeaways shop in Jo’burg. Sputla loved that place. Teenage told me that he’d heard that Sputla bought a whole chicken, a big packet of chips and a loaf of bread!
Peter: Before the game, after a huge breakfast and lunch!
Banks: Yes. And he ate the whole lot while he was hiding in the hotel car park... Well, I couldn’t believe it. Even for someone with Sputla’s appetite, it was impossible to eat so much before a game and still play. Plus, he was going against my instructions.
Peter: So, what did you do?
Ace: Banks set a trap for Sputla.
Banks: Ja… the next game, when we camped, we had the same routine. This time though, Teenage and myself followed Sputla. Sure enough he went to the Fontana takeaways shop again and ordered a whole lot of food. Once again, he drove to the car park and sat in the kombi to eat his huge meal … and I mean HUGE!
Ace: The next minute Banks and Teenage jumped into the kombi to catch Sputla.
Banks: Man, he had this whole chicken with gravy, large chips, rolls and a coke with him. Half the chips were already gone. Teenage and I couldn’t believe it. At first, we were so shocked at the amount of food that we just stood there with our eyes wide and our mouths open.
Peter: And what did Sputla say?
Banks: He couldn’t speak because his mouth was so full of food...ha, ha. Eventually I said, ‘What is this!’ And Sputla said, ‘Coach, I am an eater… I need food… otherwise I can’t play or run.’ Can you imagine?!
Ace: If you saw him, you’d think that this man never had a proper meal!
Banks: So I said to him, ‘Alright, Sputla, as long as you perform it’s okay. If you feel you need to eat all this to play then okay, but don’t do it behind my back!’
Banks: Man, he was brilliant, each and every game he did his stuff. He was so quick, you’d think he ate fresh air…
Banks: But you know something else, I was one of the first Kaizer Chiefs players to buy a house. When Sputla heard, he said, ‘Banksie, I must come visit you one day to see your house.’ I said, ‘No, Sputla, no way. I’d have to slaughter an ox just to feed you...you can’t come...ha, ha.’
Ace: Funny enough, someone told me the other day that Sputla is fat now. Maybe his body is finally relaxing!
Banks: Ha, ha. Ja, I’d love to see him again but not to feed him!
Peter: Well, Sputla, we’re sure you’ll read this. Let’s hear your reply to Banks and Ace… and send us an up-to-date photograph!
Ace: Ja, that will be good… Sputla, howdy, my man! Guys, until next week, take it easy, just like Sunday morning.
Banks: Oh yes.
Peter: For sure.