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Come Back, The Golden Days

There was a time when South African football was king. Orlando Pirates won the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League in 1995 and Bafana Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996. They are out for African glory again. Can the club recapture the golden years?

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Almost two decades ago, a group of talented football players became known as the golden generation of South African soccer.  In 2013, Orlando Pirates, one of Africa’s oldest football clubs, is looking to recapture the championship of the continent. The Soweto club is still the only South African team to have ever won the competition. Eighteen years on, the club is making progress. They have just qualified for the group stages of the tournament following a drama-filled encounter against the Democratic Republic of Congo’s TP Mazembe. The first leg of the encounter at Soccer City, Johannesburg, ended with Pirates hammering Mazembe 3-1. The return leg in Kinshasa was a hostile game which Mazembe won by a goal to nil.

Before the match, police detained two South African journalists who ended up missing the game. Mazembe denied any involvement and said the problems with the broadcasting of the match was due to a technical problem at the station.

“It must be stated that we are a law-abiding club that believes in fair play. All the international journalists that traveled for the match, and were duly accredited, were ushered into the press tribune where they covered the match unhampered. The media reports that journalists from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) were arrested after the match are totally unfounded and false,” says Mazembe team president, Moise Katumbi-Chapwe.

On the pitch, Pirate’s players told a different story upon their arrival in the country. They complained that the calls on the pitch were not going the Buccaneers’ way. On top of this, their captain, Lucky Lekgwathi, was sent off in the first half. Two dubious penalties were awarded to Mazembe. Pirates’ hero on the day was goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, who saved the two penalties.

“The treatment in terms of food, accommodation and other things was okay. The only problem was on the field. The refereeing was poor and Lucky Lekgwathi did not deserve the red card. However, a fighting spirit kept us in the game,” Meyiwa told Kick Off magazine.

Their road in this year’s competition has been made even harder following the draw for the group stages. The draw for the 2013 CAF Champions League Group stages was conducted at the CAF headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.

Pirates are in Group A, alongside AC Leopards (DRC), Zamalek (Egypt) and Al-Ahly (Egypt). Group B comprises of Recreativo Libolo (Angola), Esperance (Tunisia), Sewe Sport (Ivory Coast) and Coton Sport (Cameroon).

The group stages consist of eight teams divided into two groups. Each team, in their respective group, will play each other twice, in a home and away leg. The top two sides from each group will then qualify for the semi-finals.

It has been a rough ride for the Pirates’ players following in the footsteps of the golden generation of 1995. It was the year Pirates earned a gold star above their badge. Pirates drew two all at FNB Stadium, now known as Soccer City, in Johannesburg against ASEC Mimosa of Côte d’Ivoire. In the second leg in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, two weeks later, it looked like the Buccaneers—as Orlando Pirates are affectionately known—would lose the title on away goals but then, a moment of brilliance.

Defender Mark Fish cleared from deep in defence to Jerry ‘Legs of Thunder’ Sikhosana, who danced around two defenders before slotting the ball in the net. The goal sparked national celebrations akin to those of the release of former South African president, Nelson Mandela.

The captain of the 1996 Afcon winning team, Neil Tovey, summed it up best in his blog when he said: “I may have captained Chiefs from 1992 to 1999, but I will always give credit where it’s due. I believe triumphs like these bring the country closer together. The 1996 Africa Cup of Nations’ winning squad certainly fed off Pirates’ Champions League success in 1995.”

The Pirates team that made South Africa proud 18 years ago consisted of a number of quality players that were regarded as the best. The likes of goalkeeper Williams Okpara, Edward Motale, Mark Fish, Gavin Lane, John Moeti, Helman Mkhalele and Jerry Sikhosana made the world take notice of the force that was to be South African football.

The ‘sea robbers’ are hoping to add another star to their emblem. The treatment of the 2013 team hasn’t changed much from what the 1995 team received. The Pirates’ conquering team also went through a few hostile situations.

Former player turned football analyst Helman Mkhalele says the troubles against Mazembe brought back memories.

“What the team went through was horrible. It gives football on the continent a negative image, both on the field and administratively. We, as Africans want to win the World Cup one day but with such acts, we can forget it. When we reflect on the hurdles we overcame to win the title, they are similar to what they are going through. The experience taught me, personally, how to be stronger mentally, physically and wiser as a person. It also taught me how to handle tough situations and how to focus as a player to express myself,” says Mkhalele.

Former goalkeeper, Williams Okpara, who signed for Pirates from ACB in Nigeria, in 1994, remembers it as if it were yesterday.

“Looking at the current Pirates team, we have many good players who can do the job for the team. I was very impressed with Pirates’ performance against Djabal and also when we beat Zanaco away from home. The conditions in Zambia were not comforting because the pitch had long grass. It is good that Pirates players went all out showing great character and we won the game,” says Okpara.

Since Pirates’ won the trophy, South African football has suffered a lean spell. No South African team has managed to win the title. Mamelodi Sundowns managed to reach the finals in 2001 but lost to Egypt’s Al-Ahly.

Bafana Bafana has also struggled to make an impact in international competition. They were knocked out of the FIFA 2010 World Cup in the group stages, the worst performance ever by a host country.

Whether or not the future of South African football teams will be a bright one, will depend on how they do on the continent. What better way to do it than with the CAF Champions League. South African players will be used to the tough playing environment and this will in turn benefit the national team.

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Get Set Mo!

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Morongoa Mahope feeds her love for extreme biking with petrol and adrenaline. The funds for her pet passion come from her nine-to-five accounting job.

About 10kms north of the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa is another racetrack, where superbikes and sports cars are noisily revving up their engines, getting ready for a practice run on a cold Wednesday afternoon in Johannesburg.

At first glance at the Zwartkops racetrack is a melange of male drivers and mechanics.

But also revving up a superbike, the one numbered 83, is Morongoa Mahope from Mahwelereng in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

READ MORE: ‘From Zero to Hero’: The Queen Of The 800 meters Caster Semenya

She is about to clock 270kmph on her black bike, tagged #Mo83 in pink.

When she is not burning rubber on the racetrack, Mahope is an accountant working for an advertising agency in the city.

“When I started [superbiking], it was mainly only for leisure because I love the sound bikes and cars make. I’m a petrol head and just wanted it to commute to work,” she says.

Morongoa Mahope

Her journey started in 2013 when she convinced her husband and family about buying a superbike. Her family was initially apprehensive and viewed superbike racing as dangerous.

Her husband finally relented and Mahope went for a day’s training to see if she really would be interested in the bike before investing in it. The 36-year-old sports fanatic succumbed, and indeed pursued her wish.

“I still have my first bike; it’s a green and black Kawasaki Ninja 250cc. I was just using it to [go to] work until I met a biking club, the Eagle Bikers Club Limpopo,” she recalls.

Mahope was riding with the club, doing breakfast runs between Johannesburg and Limpopo; but, in 2015, they took a trip to Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

READ MORE: Making Up For Millions

Navigating the mountainous, curvy roads, Mahope was overtaking men with her small 250cc bike at the bends.

She was then goaded by her fellow riders to try the racing circuit.

“I went to the track and met a superbike racer; Themba Khumalo, and I started following his journey. I spent more time on the track, practising so I could start racing in 2016. The love for the sport was getting deeper and deeper,” says Mahope.

Khumalo, a professional superbike rider who has raced in the European Championships, says he met Mahope at Zwartkops and it was her first time at the track, and she was quite fast at the corners.

He went up to her to introduce himself because it was rare to see a black woman on a racetrack.

READ MORE: Higher Revenues And Greater Optimism: Female-Owned Small Businesses Are Gaining Ground

“I then took her through the fundamentals of racing and the basics; the type of bike she would need and the equipment. I could see how committed she was and how quick she was learning, and her lack of fear. She was going farther than where she was,” says Khumalo.  

However, her male counterparts were not impressed with her pace on the track; they remarked negatively about her. But Mahope didn’t let the minimizing comments derail her mission.

Unfortunately, Mahope was involved in an accident during training on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and fractured her clavicle before her first race. That took her off the bike for six months.

She joked about the incident with friends, but they persisted and told her it’s an unsafe sport. That encouraged her even more; she wore her helmet and gloves, clocking higher speeds than ever before on her superbike.

Indeed, it was a learning curve. A few months later, she was invited to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe to race.

READ MORE: Shopping for ideas

Her first official race was the same year as the injury; it was a club race in Delmas, Mpumalanga, at the Red Star Raceway. She had never been on the grid nor practised how to stud, but for her, it was more about the experience despite the shivers and nerves.

“I finished the race and I was second last. It’s part of how you start but you will improve to be better. And now, I have lost count of the races I have competed in,” she says.

Mahope is racing in the short circuit series for women who use the 250cc, being the only black woman to participate. She also participated in the Extreme Festival tour series, a regional race in which she used her Kawasaki Ninja ZX600cc, racing men with bigger and louder bikes.

“I am the first black woman to be in the grand prix and the challenges that I faced were having to teach myself a lot of things. I had to learn how to ride on the track, the speed, the decelerating, all was new to me. I wasn’t helped.”

Mahope started at a late stage with the sport, and had to put in more time and effort in a short period to get to where she is currently.

READ MORE: Linda Ikeji : Nigeria’s Queen of content raking in millions

Today, she assists women who are starting with the sport.  

Sadly, in South Africa, there is no national league for women to race and represent the country despite finishing in the top three in the 2019 races.

With all her achievements thus far, Mahope’s salary sustains her motorsport passion.

“Racing is very expensive; the more you practise, the more you get better and the more you spend money. On practice day, I spend about R3,000 ($206) and would practise twice a week at different tracks. In total, I would spend R18,000 ($1,235) a month for the track excluding the travel costs to the track and race day,” she explains.These costs cover tyres, fuel and entrance to the tracks.

A sum of about R40,000 ($2,744) can get you geared up for the bike and track.

It just shows this daredevil accountant can balance both the books and the bike.

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Playing Two Shots Ahead

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The 16-year-old dreams of lifting the French Open title in the future, but also hopes to inspire a generation of black players to take up tennis.

Khololwam Montsi, 16, a rising star of South African tennis, recently broke into the list of top 20 junior tennis players in the world after an excellent year that has seen him take part in tournaments in Australia, Paraguay, Brazil, Italy, Belgium and Japan, as well as take the South African circuit by storm.

The young prodigy trains at the Anthony Harris Tennis Academy in Cape Town, the same facility that developed Lloyd Harris into a top 100 player on the men’s senior ATP circuit.

Montsi was not actually all that interested in tennis until his older brother, Sipho, took up the game.

“I was focussed on karate and squash, those were my two main sports,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“But when I saw my brother playing tennis, I also wanted to join in. You know what it is like when you have an older brother, you want to follow him and impress him.

“At that time, I was representing South Africa in karate, but I decided to drop the sport for tennis because I started to enjoy it more, was getting better and doing well in tournaments. It motivated me a lot.

“I come from a very sporty background, my father, Xolani, played rugby and soccer; my mother, Phumla, was a sprinter. When I was younger, I did everything – rugby, soccer, cricket, swimming, athletics, the lot. I just love to compete.”

Montsi has developed quickly and, despite his relatively short frame, excelled with racquet in hand to emerge as arguably South Africa’s leading young talent.

“For me, since I am usually always playing against guys bigger than me, my game is not all about power,” he says. “My strength comes from my mind, I feel like I’m smarter than everybody else on court. I can pull off any shot.

“I read the game really well for someone of this age. I play two shots ahead of my opponents and can hit the ball into areas where I know where they will return it to me. That gives me an advantage to be ready. It is the big strength in my game.

“I would love to win the French Open, I’m a big fan of clay courts, you get more time to play. It is better for me at my height.”

And as for his personal role model?

READ MORE: The Highest-Paid Tennis Players 2019: Roger Federer Scores A Record $93 Million

“I would take a few players and combine that. I love Rafa Nadal, he never gives up. I love [Novak] Djokovic, the way he moves across court and is super flexible. Then someone like [Gael] Monfils for the way he can pull off amazing shots.”

South Africa has lacked a black player on the singles circuit and Montsi is hopeful he will break the mould, saying he takes great satisfaction from being a pioneer.

“I want to lift up tennis as a black boy. We do not see tennis as a big sport in South Africa, barely any black kids play. I don’t want to put pressure on myself, but I do feel a responsibility to help black tennis players get opportunities.

“I play for myself, my family, my coaches and for black people. I would like to help grow the game in South Africa for them. It would be cool if I could help get more people to start playing tennis.”

The obvious question is how he juggles traveling the world and his school work, but Montsi has found a solution.

“I do online home-schooling, which means I can do all my work at tournaments, anywhere in the world as long as I have my laptop. It is tough to balance the two, it takes a lot of discipline.

“I do sometimes think, ‘I’m tired today, I won’t do it’ and I was behind for quite a while, but with the home-schooling system, it is perfect, I have caught up quickly.”

Montsi is preparing for the Australian Junior Open in January, the start of a busy year that will hopefully also see him take part in the senior ATP Tour at some stage.

“To be the first black African to win a Junior Grand Slam would be amazing for me,” he says, adding his future success may depend on funding.

“To become a successful tennis player, you need financial support to get to tournaments. I am being helped a lot, but things can change quickly. I do see myself playing on the pro-circuit, that is my dream. I feel like I can keep my tennis up, but if the finances aren’t there.”

By Nick Said

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30 under 30

Applications Open for FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2020

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FORBES AFRICA is on the hunt for Africans under the age of 30, who are building brands, creating jobs and transforming the continent, to join our Under 30 community for 2020.


JOHANNESBURG, 07 January 2020: Attention entrepreneurs, creatives, sport stars and technology geeks — the 2020 FORBES AFRICA Under 30 nominations are now officially open.

The FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list is the most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we are on the hunt for 30 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 spanning these categories: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.

Each year, FORBES AFRICA looks for resilient self-starters, innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors who have the acumen to stay the course in their chosen field, come what may.

Past honorees include Sho Madjozi, Bruce Diale, Karabo Poppy, Kwesta, Nomzamo Mbatha, Burna Boy, Nthabiseng Mosia, Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe, Henrich Akomolafe, Davido, Yemi Alade, Vere Shaba, Nasty C and WizKid.

What’s different this year is that we have whittled down the list to just 30 finalists, making the competition stiff and the vetting process even more rigorous. 

Says FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil: “The start of a new decade means the unraveling of fresh talent on the African continent. I can’t wait to see the potential billionaires who will land up on our desks. Our coveted sixth annual Under 30 list will herald some of the decade’s biggest names in business and life.”

If you think you have what it takes to be on this year’s list or know an entrepreneur, creative, technology entrepreneur or sports star under 30 with a proven track-record on the continent – introduce them to FORBES AFRICA by applying or submitting your nomination.

NOMINATIONS AND APPLICATIONS CRITERIA:

Business and Technology categories

  1. Must be an entrepreneur/founder aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Should have a legitimate REGISTERED business on the continent
  3. Business/businesses should be two years or older
  4. Nominees must have risked own money and have a social impact
  5. Must be profit generating
  6. Must employ people in Africa
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Sports category

  1. Must be a sports person aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be representing an African team
  3. Should have a proven track record of no less than two years
  4. Should be making significant earnings
  5. Should have some endorsement deals
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Creatives category

  1. Must be a creative aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
  2. Must be from or based in Africa
  3. Should be making significant earnings
  4. Should have a proven creative record of no less than two years
  5. Must have social influence
  6. Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
  7. All applications must be in English
  8. Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up

Your entry should include:

  • Country
  • Full Names
  • Company name/Team you are applying with
  • A short motivation on why you should be on the list
  • A short profile on self and company
  • Links to published material / news clippings about nominee
  • All social media handles
  • Contact information
  • High-res images of yourself

Applications and nominations must be sent via email to FORBES AFRICA journalist and curator of the list, Karen Mwendera, on [email protected]

Nominations close on 3 February 2020.

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