The name ‘Ewert Nene’ is enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Entertaining stories about the late great Kaizer Chiefs manager abound. Ewert is best remembered as a fast talker, a sharp dresser and an awesome manager. But things got a little crazy in the Chiefs camp sometimes... For example, how could fining players inspire them to produce a better performance? Especially if your reason for fining them is because they’re not dressing sharp enough … Soccer Laduma readers, if you’re thinking there’s more to this story than meets the eye, you’d be right! Now, let’s catch up with Banks and Ace …
Ace: Alive and kicking.
Peter: What’s on the agenda this week, guys?
Banks: Ace and I have got another great story about the legend himself, South Africa’s greatest ever soccer manager, Ewert Nene.
Ace: ‘The Lip’.
Peter: Brilliant. Every Ewert Nene story is a masterpiece because of the man himself - just thinking of him is enough to make a story good.
Ace: You know, Ewert was a role model to all of us. We looked to him for guidance in life. You know, he knew how to dress and how to behave - he was a leader.
Banks: He gave us hope. Anyway, this was round about 1974/75. We were going to play Katlehong City in Germiston at Huntersfield Stadium. As usual, we went to the Dairy Den for our pre-match meal and then drove to the stadium. We wanted to get there nice and early.
Ace: Yes, in those days, there were very few stadiums with dressing rooms. Huntersfield didn’t have one either. Our supporters and officials used to park their cars in a circle, we players would sit in the middle, then Ewert would place himself on the bonnet of a car and take charge.
Banks: You mean Ewert would talk. Ewert was very talkative, he’d talk non-stop. It was like his show, his stage. We’d all be sitting below him and he’d make jokes and tell stories about everyone while we were sitting there waiting to get ready for the game. He’d tell you what you were going to do on the field and joke about the opposition.
Ace: Everyone would be laughing and enjoying it, and of course Ewert loved being the centre of all the attention.
Banks: It was very hot that day and I said to the other players, “Let’s go and buy some cooldrinks.” So about eight of us all got up and walked to the shop, which was close to the stadium, to buy some cooldrinks and chips.
Ace: In those days, we didn’t know about diet or anything and you could also walk and mix with the supporters. In fact, we even used to sit among the supporters to watch curtain raisers. It was different then, not like today.
Banks: When we started walking to the shop, I could tell by the look on Ewert’s face that he couldn’t believe we were just leaving him there with the rest of the players. We were spoiling his fun. I could see he wasn’t happy at all.
Ace: Ha, ha.
Peter: Can you remember who left with you?
Banks: Yes, it was all the youngsters - me, Ace, Jackie Masike, George ‘Best’ More, Johnny Mokoena, Terror Mphuthi, George Makuna and Computer Lamola - over half the team. Ewert was left with only the older guys like Kaizer, Zero Johnson … you know the players that were almost the same age as him. These guys knew Ewert and all his stories. He couldn’t joke and tell them stories - they’d heard them all before. So we had spoilt Ewert’s fun by leaving. It was as if we were punishing him.
Ace: I mean he couldn’t stop us going … we were doing nothing wrong.
Banks: And it was summer. We were all wearing Bermuda shorts, takkies and nice T-shirts. Only I was wearing jeans and shoes - my legs are too skinny for Bermudas.
Ace: Ja, we were walking back, laughing and joking, enjoying our cooldrink and chips, all innocent like.
Banks: Ja, but, in my head, I knew something was going to happen. I could see how Ewert was watching us all the time as we came back to the cars. We were just strolling back but he was getting tense, smoking one cigarette after another.
Peter: Time for trouble.
Banks: Yes, because the next thing Ewert said, “You guys don’t look like footballers, you look like thugs. Look at you, the way you dress. It looks like I’m not paying you guys. You’re making a fool of me!”
Ace: Ewert was furious. But you know, I think he was also teaching us because he and Kaizer were fancy dressers and he wanted all his Chiefs players to be fancy dressers as well. You know, to dress so that everyone would look up to us and Chiefs.
Banks: True, but he was also fed up, mainly because we just left. The clothes were an excuse … saying he didn’t want untidy players and so on. We just kept quiet and starting changing into our Kaizer Chiefs kit. Then, all of a sudden, Ewert said, “Right, I am going to fine you. And now you are fined!” He was shouting and talking crazy.
Ace: But he meant it. Still nobody said a word. Next he announced the starting line-up.
Banks: I was the captain and as we were about to trot onto the pitch, I said to the guys in front of Ewert, “My friends, you know we are going to be fined, and we’re not going to be paid. That means we are playing for ourselves, let’s take our revenge out on the pitch.”
Ace: Ha, ha, now just listen to what Ewert said next.
Banks: Ja, Ewert went crazy, “Revenge! Revenge!” He was screaming.
Banks: I could see he was going crazy so I explained, “Yes, we’ll, take revenge on the opposition and wallop them.” Ewert just looked at me and said, “I know what you mean by revenge. You guys are going to let goals in and play shit. You guys are going to play to lose because of the fines.” I said, “No, Ewert, you’ll see we are angry but we’re going to take it out on Katlehong City.”
Ace: Ewert just gave us a look and kept quiet.
Peter: So, how did the game go?
Banks: We were brilliant. After 20 minutes, we were up 2-0. It was very hot and the pitch was hard, and Ewert was running up and down the field, screaming like crazy...but he was smiling by the end of the first half.
Ace: At halftime Ewert came running up to us, he was so happy that he actually forgot that he’d fined us. He wanted to give us a halftime team talk but Banks stopped him.
Banks: Ha, ha, ja, I said, “No, Ewert, don’t talk. We are not getting paid - we’ll do our own talking. He said, “This is a hijack, you think Kaizer Chiefs belongs to you guys, you don’t want me anymore.” Ewert was half joking, half serious. He couldn’t be totally cross because we were playing so well and he didn’t want to upset us.
Ace: In the second half, we scored three more goals and ended up winning 5-0.
Peter: And what happened after the game?
Banks: Nobody spoke to Ewert. But he said, “Guys, you were brilliant today. Maybe I need to fine you before every game, it’s helping you to produce good football.”
Ace: We used to get paid every Monday but that Monday, FG was not around.
Ace: Ha, ha. FG was the name we gave to Gilbert Sekgabi, the late Kaizer Chiefs Director. He was the one who used to come with all the money on a Monday to pay us.
Peter: But why call him FG?
Ace: Fidelity Guard. You know they carry all the cash and so did he.
Peter: Ha, ha.
Banks: Ja no, FG never arrived on the Monday so we thought, “Oh well, it’s true we’ve been fined, no money.” But on the Tuesday, FG arrived smiling with our money. He said, “You guys thought you weren’t getting paid. But you played so well, we decided not to fine you, well done!”
Ace: It was Ewert’s idea to still pay us. He was the best motivator in the world. He loved being with us and that’s why he was upset when we left but he also truly wanted us to dress and behave like stars. Ewert wanted the Chiefs players to be seen as stars. That’s why he wanted us to dress like him and Kaizer because they really were fancy dressers.
Banks: But he also knew that we didn’t really have the money to dress like him and Kaizer. He knew what he was doing - Ewert was simply the best.
Peter: Oh yes … Well, guys, you’re both looking good today … so until next week.
Ace: Take it easy … like Sunday morning.