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Edward Motale, the one that got away for Sundowns

Edward Motale is remembered as the man who raised the African Champions Cup aloft in December 1995, as Orlando Pirates became the first South African club to be crowned continental champions.

Motale was stand-in captain on the day the Buccaneers beat ASEC Mimosas 1-0 in Abidjan; regular skipper Innocent Mncwango was suspended after being sent off during the first leg of the Final, a 2-2 draw at Soccer City.

A popular left-back with a penchant for marauding overlapping runs, ‘Magents’ was capped seven times by South Africa and was a member of the Bafana Bafana squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1986. He also starred for Jomo Cosmos, SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows during his career.

However, very few fans know that Motale almost joined Mamelodi Sundowns in January 1994 instead of Pirates.

“After Jomo Cosmos was relegated [in 1993] I was looking for a new club,” Motale says. “I actually was at training with Mamelodi Sundowns, but just for one day.

“I was invited to a training match, but then the coach put me on the bench. I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to tolerate this, I am an established player’. So I did not go back the next day.

“Then I received a call from ‘Goldfinger’ - Alex [Shakoane] - he asked me; ‘where were you today?’

“I said; ‘No, I’m not going to sit bench at training; I go to training to train’.

“That very same night Irvin Khoza called me and said, ‘I want you at Orlando Pirates; come to training tomorrow. When I got there, it was like a homecoming; all my buddies from Cosmos were there. So I joined them instead.”

It is established history that Pirates chairman Khoza cobbled together a powerful team from two relegated clubs, Cosmos and Dynamos, and by the end of the season they were League champions; the next season, champions of Africa.

Born and bred in Mamelodi, Motale observed first-hand as Sundowns rose from the Second Division to become South African champions in just half-a-decade. Under the ownership of Zola Mahobe, with Stanley ‘Screamer’ Tshabalala as coach, Sundowns became the talk of the land.

“Sundowns in those days were beautiful to watch; they played very attractive attacking soccer and they started attracting many fans,” says Motale who, as a teenager playing for Mamelodi High, watched Sundowns’ during their first season in the NPSL, in 1983.

For just that season, Mamelodi was represented by two clubs in the top-flight. Aside from newly-promoted Sundowns, there was Mamelodi United, a side that was in their third season in the NPSL First Division, rubbing shoulders with Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Moroka Swallows, Highlands Park, AmaZulu, Durban City and the like.

The young Motale would attend home games of both clubs, in the company of his father.

“Both teams played at HM Pitje and the stadium was in walking distance of our house,” Motale recalls. “My dad was a football lover - not a supporter of any club, just a lover of good football - and as I was doing well for the school team and for my club, Glenfair, he would brag to his friends; ‘You watch, one day my boy will play for Sundowns’. That is when my love for football really grew strong.”

“I was a left-wing. I was tall and strong for my age, so sometimes my coach would send me up-front. I would bang some quality goals, even as a winger.”

And although Mamelodi United were relegated at the end of 1983, never to return, Motale admits to having a fondness for a number of United players. Was that the reason Magents, almost a decade later, chose Pirates rather than Sundowns?

“Not really. Sundowns never spotted me,” he says. “I used to dream of getting a call from Screamer, but it never came. I would have loved to have played in front of my family and friends, for my home team.”

The truth is that Sundowns had the inside track, but their scouting system had failed to spot the talent on their doorstep. Instead, Motale left the township and became one of just two black youngsters at Arcadia Shepherds, the top white club in Pretoria.

“A guy spotted me playing in Mamelodi and he took me to Arcadia Shepherds,” he recalls. From Shepherds, Motale moved to another Pretoria club, Berea Park.

“Sundowns never really looked at me. Maybe because I was at Arcadia, Berea… I was playing in a league that was predominantly white, so people in Mamelodi were not aware of my talent,” Motale muses.

While he was playing for Berea Park, he was spotted by Roy Matthews, Jomo Sono’s right-hand man. Matthews, a former English pro, knew talent when he saw it, and he took Motale to Cosmos, where his career really took off.

Today, Motale enjoys watching Sundowns, and says he will support them against Chiefs in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup on October 12. However, he states that he cannot be categorized as a Sundowns fan as the black and white of Pirates runs thick in his veins.

“When Sundowns won the CAF Champions League I was very proud … very, very proud! But I was proud, not as a supporter of Mamelodi Sundowns, but as a proud South African soccer lover.”

By Richard Maguire

* The Shell Helix Ultra Cup kicks off at 16:00 on 12 October at FNB Stadium. CLICK HERE to buy tickets for the game now, and keep an eye out for some exciting competitions coming to this website in the next few weeks!

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