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The Cab Driver, Coach And The Cup

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It has been 22 years since he led South Africa to glory in the African Cup of Nations. In a new book, Clive Barker recounts his career as a salesman by day and taxi driver by night, and to FORBES AFRICA, that he is not done with the future of African football.

We are in Melville, a charming suburb in Johannesburg, and finding house number 55 is not as easy as Google Maps makes it out to be.

Finally, we arrive, there are two dogs by the gate, we ring the bell, and Clive Barker’s son answers the door.

The small room has a larger-than-life presence – Barker is on a couch watching a World Cup match repeat. It’s the right time and place to watch world soccer, in the company of a legend.

Standing up, shaking hands, the genial septuagenarian directs us to the patio not too far from the television and facing a landscaped yard.

The first South African coach to qualify for the World Cup in 1998, before that, Barker had led South Africa to victory in the African Cup of Nations in 1996.

For a country going through reconciliation and healing since the end of apartheid only two years earlier, it was historic. That moment changed a country’s destiny in sport, as also Barker’s life.

“People often say to me, ‘what was the biggest moment in your football career?’ And I say ‘it was when Nelson Mandela became the president of this country, he promised to come and watch us play football’. In those days, nobody came to watch us play besides the supporters and on his big day, South Africa’s greatest day, he decided to come watch us play against Zambia and of course we won. He gave us a speech which went on for 25 minutes and the Zambians blamed that for the reason they lost,” says Barker, a tear rolling down his cheek as he speaks about his interactions with Mandela.

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Barker made his professional debut at the age of 17, and has had a long history in the game, from being close to starting an international career with Leicester in England to now unearthing soccer talent in South Africa’s townships.

“I played football professionally and of course, everybody has a dream to play overseas. I was on track to do that. Unfortunately, over an Easter weekend, we played in Johannesburg against a team called Rangers. I injured my knee very badly and in those days, you could do the cartilage operation but you couldn’t do the ligament operation and so I had my first setback and three years later, when the other knee went, that’s when I decided to go into coaching,” says Barker.

Without throwing in the towel after the injury, Barker decided to go into business to make ends meet. The failure of his venture did not keep him down. To avoid bankruptcy, and to avoid losing his family home, more sacrifices had to be made.

Clive Barker. Photo by Gypseenia Lion

“I had to make that decision. I was going to lose my house and of course my family stayed there. I thought the only thing I could do was work during the night and I found that driving taxis was good. And I became a taxi driver. A salesperson by day and a taxi driver by night. We were able to do our shopping on Saturdays with the money we earned during the week. I paid off the creditors because I did not want to cross the street and someone tells me I owe them money.”

Football is similar to business, he says. “You start out as an individual, you have an idea and you develop it.”

Starting his coaching career after working as a driver for almost a year in 1973, Barker has groomed and trained a number of soccer stars such as Andre Arendse, Shaun Bartlett and Steve Komphela who continue in their coaching careers.

READ MORE: A Tattered Blue Banner In A Sea Of Gold

This undiscovered talent in townships brought to light by Barker over the years shaped legends in South African football.

“Thank goodness I went to the townships because I would have never known what was going on in South Africa,” he says.

Coaching patterns have changed drastically from the classic tracksuit-wearing coach paying close attention on the 90-minute game while shouting at the referee from the sidelines.

“In the olden days, you were more refined and were looked up to as a father figure, making all these runs, turns and somersaults and obscenities to the referee, there was a pattern emerging. My pattern emerged when we [AmaZulu] played Kaizer Chiefs in KwaMashu [a township in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province]. We won by 3-2, and the team hoisted me up at the end of the game and they pickpocketed me, from there on, I learned tracksuits are nothing more than tracksuits.”

Barker is looking forward to set his feet on the green pitch – he has been on a break.

“At the moment, I’m recovering from an illness that I had. I am starting to feel better. It’s the reason why I hadn’t been coaching for the last year-and-half but I’m certainly feeling well and when I am recovered, I am hoping to go back to coaching.”

In South Africa, soccer has always been more than a match, it’s a heady mixture of emotions and the shrill vuvuzelas (plastic horn). In Barker’s time, players had signature moves or tricks to keep the spectators entertained. This is one element that remains unique to South African football.

“If we copy the likes of Brazil, we could never beat them; if we copied the Italian style of football we could never beat them. If we developed the style of football that we had, then there was a pattern to it. Imagine me going to Doctor Khumalo or ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu saying ‘you can’t dribble, you can’t back-heel the ball’. If I took the nice part of football away from them, we would end up with robots.

“I think we lost out on a great opportunity to make a huge imprint in football not only in Africa in particular but throughout the whole world”.

With the non-stop action and unpredictability of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, African representation has declined drastically nearing the final stages.

The 74-year-old patriot, with great disappointment, tells FORBES AFRICA he feels sad in many ways as he had always been one to root for an African country to be world champions. However, according to Barker, not all hope is lost for Africa.

“Once we go back to the drawing board, and have a look at why we are not dominating… I know the better players get pulled over to Europe, and they could control the destiny. If you look at the World Cup and the countries that qualified, I can tell you now that France is going to win. I think because they add a bit of the African flair.”

Coach, a book on the life and times of Barker, was launched in July.

“The game has been so good to me, the people of South Africa have been good to me. Always encouraging, even the reaction to the book is fantastic. I wasn’t sure if I was going to recover from my illness and I decided that the best time to write this book is now,” says Barker, set to return soon to coaching more soccer stars, and shaping a future that will one day bring the World Cup to Africa.

 

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Chasing The Grand Slam With Kevin Anderson

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Kevin Anderson had the biggest match of his career in the recent Wimbledon final, becoming the first male player to feature in the decider under the South African flag since 1921.
With over $13 million in career prize-money, he speaks to FORBES AFRICA about new goals.

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The New No. 6 Role Model In Rugby

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Siya Kolisi’s elevation to the captaincy of the South African national rugby side drew global interest for what it symbolized but he admits it has been a tough road to earn his place as arguably the most iconic player in the country.

Kolisi comes from a poor Eastern Cape background and having faced a number of tests of his own strength and perseverance, has risen to be among the most inspirational sportsmen in South Africa.

The importance of having a first black captain of the Springboks, which during apartheid was seen as the preserve of the white minority and the political power they yielded, cannot be understated and as such Kolisi has been fielding interviews from around the globe, including American network HBO, with the United States certainly not a traditional market for rugby content.

It is perhaps hard for younger generations to understand why Kolisi being handed the role – and wearing the same number six jersey that Francois Pienaar and former South African president Nelson Mandela at the 1995 World Cup final – is such an important moment for South African rugby, but it is all about making the game more inclusive to all races.

Anecdotal evidence of South Africans who had never watched a rugby match before rushing home to be in front of their television sets for Kolisi’s first test leading the side against England at Ellis Park on June 9 were plentiful.

Suddenly, there is a role model, an individual that many black South Africans can identify with, leading the team against another major rugby power.

Siya Kolisi of the Springboks during the Castle Lager Incoming Series 1st Test between South Africa and France at Loftus Versfeld Pretoria, South Africa. Photo via Getty Images

But Kolisi admits that it needed a stern few words from Stormers coach Robbie Fleck in 2016 to push him in the right direction after making little impact in the early part of his career as he battled with the demands placed on a professional rugby player.

“I had a conversation with the coach and he told me I had to grow up, basically,” Kolisi tells FORBES AFRICA. “Since that day, I haven’t looked back. It’s not been easy, it’s been tough. I won’t lie, I had to mature a lot.

“Obviously now, I’m a leader at home as well, I have got kids that I must be a role model for. I had to change a lot of my ways.”

Kolisi was raised by his grandmother in the Zwide township near the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, but his sporting prowess earned him a scholarship to the prestigious Grey High School and changed his fortunes.

“I’m grateful to her, because she did everything she could to give me a life. She would go without food so that I could eat,” he said recently at a press conference.

“I couldn’t speak a word of English when I first attended Grey High, but my mates taught me and helped me with homework.

“Obviously, coming from the township and not having a lot, and coming to Grey, your dreams start becoming much bigger because you have so much. You have everything you need to be whatever you want to be.

“I started dreaming big. When I was in the township, to think that I would be here, you don’t dream like that. That’s my dream one day, to change that mentality [for others].”

Kolisi was snapped up by the Western Province Rugby Union in 2010, lured to Cape Town by their then coach Rassie Erasmus, who is now in charge of the Springboks.

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He was handed the captaincy of the Stormers at the start of 2017, but there were still some murmurs of discontent from skeptical sections of the public when he was given the reins of the Springboks in June, with critics saying it was a political appointment to appease the South African government and deliver transformation targets for South African rugby.

“I can’t control what other people think of me, I can only control what I can do on the field,” Kolisi says.

“I think it is a genuine appointment by coach Rassie because he is not that kind of a person. I have known him since I was 18 years old. We sat down and he was straightforward with me and that is how it is. You always know where you stand with him.

“Coach Rassie is not a politician and neither am I. I am a rugby player and all I want to do is to play well and inspire South Africans of all races.

“I know how much of a big deal this thing is for the country and it is a great thing for me to be a role-model. As a Springbok, it is not only about rugby, it’s the things you do off the field.”

Kolisi’s first series in charge ended in a 2-1 home success over England and with a World Cup in Japan looming next year, he could be selected to lead the side at that global showpiece tournament.

But with other players who were previously named as captain ahead of him returning from injury, such as loose-forward Warren Whiteley and lock Eben Etzebeth, the ball will be in Erasmus’ court to see if he will stick with his historic appointment.

– By Nick Said

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The First Lady Of Skeleton

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Simidele Adeagbo, the first Nigerian Winter Olympian at PyeongChang 2018 and the first African and black female skeleton racer at the games, is using the sport to uplift other young women.

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