By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
Jeff Butler, has passed on.
He was 83.
Butler hit the South African soccer scene and rose to coaching stardom for Kaizer Chiefs in 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1993, he also coached Mamelodi Sundowns after leaving Chiefs the previous year.
He led Sundowns to the 1993 championship.
Butler won three championships with Chiefs and one with Sundowns.
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) had released a statement noting, “The Premier Soccer League (PSL) will observe a moment of silence for the late former Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana coach, Jeff Butler.
Butler passed on, on the morning in England on Saturday April 22.
Kaizer Chiefs founder and chairperson, Kaizer Motaung, expressed his “devastation” at the news of Butler’s death.
“I’m devastated by this news,” said Motaung.
“When I recruited Jeff he was in Cyprus. We brought him to turn around our fortunes at the time, and he did exactly that.”
Butler arrived at Chiefs in 1988, and the following year won the JPS Knockout Cup.
He also won the National Soccer League championship in 1989.
“By the time he completed his coaching stint in 1996, he had recorded many trophies under his name,” remembers Motaung.
“I remember some of the trophies included the BP Top Eight Cup, Ohlssons Challenge and the Charity Spectacular.”
Motaung also revealed, “We kept in touch with his family through his ill health.”
“Jeff loved and lived football. I am deeply hurt. It is hard to accept but what do you do when someone has earned his innings?”
“On behalf of my family and the Kaizer Chiefs family I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The football legend and friend is gone but his history at Chiefs is cast in stone.”
Butler briefly coached Bafana Bafana after South Africa’s readmission to international football in 1992.
Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana legend Doctor Khumalo also paid tribute to his former Chiefs mentor.
“I was a boy from Soweto. My biggest strength was my dribbling and ability to dance through opponents. But Butler believed we had to go forward as a team. That is how we started to fight,” Khumalo said. “We ended up not seeing eye to eye. It was that bad and true to his character, Jeff was never going to let me get away with it. He was really strict.
“The chairperson (Kaizer Motaung) had to stage an intervention. He talked to me and made me aware of certain things and that is when my relationship with Jeff improved. But even with that we would still had something to fight about.”
Khumalo continued: “The main thing about Jeff is that he turned us into professionals. He changed how we looked at football and things got better for us. He also contributed trophies and got lots more people respecting Kaizer Chiefs.”
President Jacob Zuma extended his heartfelt condolences on the passing of the late ‘football legend’ Butler.
“This is yet another huge loss to the sporting fraternity in a short space of time. We are with his family in thoughts and prayers during this trying period. May his soul rest in peace,” President Zuma said.
The Englishman was also with Chiefs’ youth development in the final years of his coaching career in South Africa. This was from 2003 – 2004.
In a 2015 interview with Soccer Laduma, Africa’s biggest soccer newspaper Butler had revealed, “I’d be interested to come back and give a little bit back – something like academy clinics and working with the younger players. If there is anyone who wants some coaching… even a stop-gap for a couple of months’ work or in development etcetera… I’d be open to it.
“I would consider working with a first team, but I wouldn’t want to do that long term. I could do some work and help the other coaches out.
“Academy wise, I’d probably prefer to do that because that’s what I’ve been doing in England recently. I’ll have a look around in the PSL and see what comes up,” said Butler.
It is hard to imagine that other clubs in Africa and national teams did not make use of the services of this great man.
Butler, who was born in England on January 8 1934, is survived by Valerie, his wife of 52 years and four children.
Jeff Butler will forever be remembered as an adopted Son of Africa.
Hamba Kahle, Jeff. Go Well, Jeff.