Five all-time great Kaizer Chiefs players
No South African club has generated quite as many household names as Kaizer Chiefs.
Formed by a bona fide star, Kaizer Motaung, Amkhosi has attracted the best players and produced numerous stars - from Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe and Nelson ‘Teenage' Dladla, through Doctor Khumalo and Fani Madida, to current hero Itumeleng Khune.
Here are five of the best players to ever don the Black and Gold jersey …
The legendary Ace. All other soccer greats in South Africa are measured against his standard. Pule Patrick ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe was a hero on two continents; his name widely known in Africa south of the equator, and remembered with great fondness by older soccer fans in the USA.
The Americans were lucky … they got to see Ace year on year playing in the old NASL; Chiefs fans making do with Ntsoelengoe’s presence in the summer months at the start of the season, then once again as spring turned to summer towards the end of the season.
Despite splitting his career this way – as the pioneering Kaizer Motaung had done before him – Ace racked up close on 550 games for Chiefs between 1971 and his retirement in 1988.
What is it that made him so great? He wasn’t particularly pacey, nor did he indulge too often in extended dribbling runs like many of his contemporaries. What he did was control the game with his great football intelligence and his complete mastery of ball, time and space.
So adept at slowing the game down, then picking up the tempo to suit his requirements, Ntsoelengoe induced mass panic in opposing sides, and scored goals at the rate of a top-class striker because of the impeccable timing of his runs and his confidence as a finisher.
His greatest trick involved slowing things down to walking pace with the ball at his feet, then accelerating - with the ball still under his complete control - just as a defender pounced, leaving many a man on his backside as the crowd roared ‘Aaaaaaace… Aaaaaaace!’ ‘Mabhekhaphanzi’ had struck again.
Already a legend in Durban, where he starred for Durban City and AmaZulu through much of the 80s, Neil Tovey became a national hero during his time at Chiefs as the captain of a powerful Amakhosi side in the early 1990s, and as victorious leader of Bafana Bafana in 1996.
A hard-working, dedicated player who read the game brilliantly, he was nicknamed ‘Mokoko’/’Nkuku’ - think of a chicken pecking and scratching away at the ground. Tovey shifted from a central defensive midfield position to the heart of defence during his time at Chiefs.
By the time he hung his boots up and moved into a coaching role at the club in 1998, Tovey had played 318 times for the Glamour Boys to go with close to 180 games for his Durban clubs and 52 international caps.
A living legend who needs no introduction, and almost certainly South Africa’s greatest ever defender. It is ironic that Radebe’s time at Chiefs is somewhat glossed over, but this is a result of his broader achievements and his international standing.
It should be remembered what a fine defender ‘Rhuu’ was - firm in the tackle, adroit in his positioning, almost psychic in his anticipation, determined in the air and confident on the ball, he was already a consummate centre-back when Leeds United signed him in 1995.
The man of whom Nelson Mandela said ‘This is my hero’ played 159 League games for Chiefs and over 200 matches for English top-flight side Leeds, who he captained and where he is held in the highest regard.
South Africa’s second great captain after Neil Tovey, Radebe played 70 times for Bafana Bafana.
The darling of South Africa’s townships across the country during the bitter final years of apartheid, his smiling face adorned ANC election media in 1994, but even while helping to usher in a new age, Doctor Khumalo was a throwback to the swashbuckling 80s.
He got to enjoy some of the fruits of South Africa’s international respectability in the mid-90s, enjoying a fine AFCON as Bafana Bafana emerged victorious in 1996, and taking in a stint in the newly-formed MLS, but 16V’s engine ran smoothest in his Chiefs heyday of the late-1980s, early-1990s when he inspired Amakhosi to numerous trophies, including four League titles in the space of four years from 1989-92.
Making his debut in 1987, Khumalo was a ‘chosen one’, the son of a legendary Chiefs captain, and he had already racked up over 200 games for the club by 1992, that pivotal season when the stylish Khumalo was named Player of the Season and Amakhosi were so imperious in winning the League, reaching heights on the pitch rarely seen since.
A special plan was made to allow Khumalo to complete 50 matches for Bafana (he scored nine international goals), so it is a pity he could not squeeze a handful more out of his club career, retiring in 2002, a few months shy of his 35th birthday, having played 397 matches and scoring 74 goals for his club.
Plucked away from Pilkington United Brothers as a young starlet in 1976, Nelson Dladla would be forever be known to Amakhosi faithful as ‘Teenage’.
It is the stuff of legend that Ewert ‘The Lip’ Nene was stabbed to death in his pursuit of the scrawny player from KwaThema, Springs, and it is said Dladla was apprehensive about making his Chiefs debut, lest his presence be a reminder of the death of a Chiefs stalwart.
But from the time he kicked a ball for the Glamour Boys, Dladla was a hero. A humble man with a killer smile, Teenage was cruelty personified in the eyes of any player assigned to mark him, and a source of anxiety mixed with awed wonder to supporters of rival fans.
Skinny and languid, he had magic in his legs and ran at defences with unbridled freedom; opponents back-pedalling furiously rather than commit to a tackle and risk being left kicking wildly at thin air.
Throughout his Chiefs career, Dladla - later he preferred to be called Nelson Tutu - knew nothing but success, playing over 400 matches and scoring at a rate of better than one in every four matches as Amakhosi annexed trophy after trophy. He retired in 1988, aged 34.
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!