Kaizer Chiefs turned 50 years on January 7, 2020.
This is a milestone by any stretch of the imagination for Abafana base
Phefeni (The Phefeni Glamour Boys) as they are affectionately known,
who have won most of the silver wear in the South Africa football
calender in the past 50 years than any other football club and enjoys
the largest support throughout the country any many other African
Kaizer Chiefs has become the biggest footballing brand in Africa and
one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Founded in Soweto, South West of Johannesburg, on the 7th January 1970
by Kaizer Motaung and a group of fellow soccer lovers.
It really started with Motaung’s entry into international soccer in 1968.
This was when Atlanta Chiefs Founder and Owner, Dick Cecil, and former
West Ham United player Phil Woosnam, who was manager of the Atlanta
Chiefs franchise in the then-recently formed North American Soccer
League(NASL) recruited Motaung after team trials in Zambia.
And despite Motaung struggling to come to terms with the weather and
overcoming injury, he made his North American debut for the Atlanta
Chiefs as a substitute in a friendly game against Manchester City.
He scored two goals in that match. The South African new star
continued on a high note for the rest of the season, scoring 16 goals
in fifteen matches.
This made the him the top scorer in the league that season. As a
result of this achievement, he was voted “Rookie of the Year” and
gained a place on the NASL’s All Star Team. In 1975, he returned to
the NASL to play two seasons with the Denver Dynamos.
And on returning home in 1970, Motaung decided to start his own
professional soccer team. He named his club “Kaizer Chiefs” after
himself and his former NASL team.
Despite early setbacks and opposition, Motaung succeeded in assembling
a good mix of veterans and talented rookies and the club soon became a
force to be reckoned with. The Kaizer Chiefs soon had a large
Within a short time, the Kaizer Chiefs became the most successful team
in South Africa, winning more than 90 trophies and gaining an
estimated 20 million plus supporters throughout the country in the
One of Kaizer Chiefs’ biggest achievements was winning the African Cup
Winners’ Cup in 2001. CAF named Kaizer Chiefs as it’s African best
tam of the year for 2001.
Ntate Motaung has also been very active in South African soccer
administration, having served on both the National Soccer League (NSL)
and South African Football Association (SAFA) executives.
In addition, Motaung co-founded (with Orlando Pirates’ Irvin Khoza)
the South African Premier League (PSL) in 1996, which helped bring
more sponsors and money into South African professional soccer.
Motaung currently still serves as a member of the PSL’s Board of
Governors, while also still running Kaizer Chiefs and being on SAFA’s
executive committee. He has also indicated that he would accept a
position with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) or on world
soccer’s governing body, FIFA.
Motaung was voted 73rd in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004. He
also assisted South Africa’s 2010 World Cup Bid Company and was a
member of the delegation that went to the FIFA head office in Zurich
to be declared the winning bid. Subsequently he was also appointed as
a member of the local organising committee for the 2010 event. Also in
2004, Motaung was given the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award by Henley
Management College, South Africa.
Furthermore, in February 2005 it was announced that Motaung would join
the board of Primedia Limited as a non-executive director. Primedia is
south Africa’s largest private media holding company and owns 40% of
Kaizer Chiefs. Kaizer Chiefs bought back the 40% and gaining 100%
Motaung has also served as a director on the boards of many other
companies such as Royal Beechnut, Simba, New Age Beverages and Get
Motaung has on many occasions revealed that had it not been
encouragement from his late father Ceyland Motaung, maybe Chiefs would
not have been formed. His father urged him to go ahead with plans to
form the club when he was assailed by doubts.
His father, a staunch Buccaneer (Pirates supporter), had supported his
son throughout his career at Pirates. But, after assembling some of
the finest talent in the country, he started having doubts about
whether the venture he was about to undertake would be successful or a
“It was then that my late father urged me to go ahead with the
project, that I summoned enough courage to proceed with the plan,”
Motaung, who had up until then been campaigning in the North American
Soccer League, discovered on his return in 1969, that some of his
buddies – Ratha Mokgoatleng, Msomi Khoza, Zero Johnson and the late
Ewert Nene, had been expelled from Pirates.
“There was this game between Pirates against Highlands Park which was
supposed to be played in Swaziland. The trio apparently did not want
to play in that game and had quarrelled with the Pirates executive.
Through my contacts, I had been informed about developments while
still in the States. I didn’t want to interrupt anything. I simply
asked Pirates permission to use the expelled players in a tour of the
country to play some friendly matches.
“I approached Mike Tseka, then Pirates chairman and expressed fears
that I foresaw trouble and suggested that perhaps it would be a
perfect idea if I used the expelled players to calm down the situation
as it was tense in the camp.
Several people have played key roles in the formation of Kaizer Chiefs
and while others were well known, there are those who toiled
tirelessly but remained in the background, yet their contributions
were extremely significant. It is a fact that the late Gilbert
Sekgabi, Clarence Mlokoti, and China Ngema, not to forget the late
Ewert “The Lip” Nene, played huge roles in terms of the formation and
growth of this team.
Oom Locks (Mlokoti) was actually recruited from Pirates. One can
safely say we poached him. We approached him and informed him that we
had something professional planned and needed him to get it off the
We also had other people like Strike Makgatho, who was at Swallows at
that time. Interestingly, we attracted supporters from Pirates and
Swallows. I guess supporters of both teams were looking for something
new, something special, something different to identify with, and
Chiefs fitted the bill perfectly.
Kaizer Chiefs was formed, I guess, at the right time. We were living
through a politically repressive and violent era. For instance, if you
defeated Pirates at Orlando Stadium, chances were that it would be
difficult to leave the stadium unharmed.
Then along came Chiefs. Our dress code was such that it appealed to a
lot of people. Maybe that is why, when we started, we had such a large
number of women supporters (laughs). But seriously though, we promoted
the concept of love and peace, and incorporated it into our slogan.
We emphasized through words and deeds, both on and off the field, that
soccer was about comradeship, about friendship, sportsmanship. That is
why it hit us so hard, when a peaceful man like Ewert Nene was killed
so violently. To be honest, I was supposed to have accompanied Nene to
Springs on that fateful night in 1976 to see Nelson “Teenage” Tutu,
the night Nene was stabbed to death.
When we finished training, he came charging to my place and was in a
hurry for us to leave as he wanted to see other friends in Kwa-Thema.
But I was still taking a bath and, he elected to go with Jan “Malombo”
Lechaba, saying I was delaying them.
We were shattered to learn later, that he had been stabbed to death.
It was such a terrible blow to hear of his violent death, particularly
because Springs was not known as a crime ridden, rough area. I should
know, my wife comes from there.
And perhaps I must also tell our readers about Simon Shezi. Another
stalwart of the team and founder member of Chiefs. Few people are
aware of the role he played in the club’s formative years and how sad,
that he is also no longer with us.
When we formed the team, the first meeting was held at Shezi’s home.
Shezi, known as “Makhosi” for reasons I’ll explain later, provided,
voluntarily, transport for the team, largely because he owned a flees
He personally liked me and was one of the few people who kept in
constant touch with me when I was playing in the States. He kept me
updated about events and developments at home. He was such a humble
and down-to earth fellow who used the term “Makhosi” when greeting
everyone. A literal interpretation of “Makhosi” is Chiefs and
naturally, it kind of gelled nicely with our slogan – AMAKHOSI.
“But of course, Tseka did not seem to understand my concept, to a
point where together with the executive, they felt I had taken sides
with the expelled guys. But I decided to go ahead with the plan
“In fact, a year prior to those hectic days, I had introduced ideas in
terms of a holistic approach towards administration. But some people
were obviously not quite happy.
“Now, a year later, I had seen how professional clubs are run abroad
and suggested that we should adopt the same concept at Pirates. Nobody
cared to listen. But, I got wind of the fact that if we wanted to go
on with our “thing” then I could take those expelled guys.”
It is now history that Motaung, backed by the late, flamboyant Ewert
Nene, China Ngema, Elijah Msibi, the late Gilbert Sekgabi, went on a
recruiting drive for players to feature for the Kaizer XI. City
Ramblers offered them the late Ariel “Pro” Kgongoane, who was to
become a great captain but died tragically during the 1976 Student
Another “Pro,” Doctor Khumalo’s father, Elkim, also joined from Swallows.
Jackie Masike and “Pro” Molope from an amateur team in Molotsane,
Ingle Singh and Vincent Julius from Sundowns were also recruited,
including “Ace” Ntsoelengoe and “Banks” Setlhodi after a match against
a Ranfontein Invitation and “Screamer” Tshabalala.
Yet, the idea of forming a club had not yet materialized as Motaung
remained loyal to Pirates and was hoping that they would sort out
their internal wrangles and, hopefully he would return to play for his
Then came the crunch, when his time to return to the States dawned,
and doubts about whether this Kaizer XI would sustain itself started
creeping in, his undying love and loyalty to Pirates gnawed at his
consciousness, it was all very confusing.
“That was when my father said to me: “You know what, I think you
should go ahead with your plans to form this team because I’m also
sick and tired of all these problems at Pirates” and his encouragement
spurred me on,” said Motaung.
But as football administrators were on the verge of forming the new
professional NPSL, we couldn’t be accepted because somehow, someone
raised a technical issue that we were not affiliated to any
association in the country.
“In fact, moves were afoot within the then Johannesburg Bantu Football
Association to prevent us from affiliating to the new organisation.
They wanted to stop us and others called us a “Rebel Group.”
But Matthew Mphahane, who was involved in the Nigel Football
Association, advised us to affiliate to his association and encouraged
us to proceed with the formation of the club as he felt it would be a
good thing for local football.
Chiefs, who had by now affiliated to the Nigel Football Association
and had changed their name from Kaizer XI to Kaizer Chiefs, started
playing in cup and friendly matches in preparations for the start of
the NPSL in 1971.
They won many tournaments and cups, and the turning point when,
according to Motaung, when they played and beat both Swallows and
Pirates on the same day and Kaizer Chiefs had arrived big time on
And on Freedom Day, April 27, 2013, South African President Jacob Zuma
bestowed the Order of Ikhamanga on Kaizer Motaung.
The Order of Ikhamanga recognises South African citizens who have
excelled in the fields from arts to sports, among other sectors.
During the ceremony, the Government also recognized Ntate Motaung’s
role in the development of young players and playing a constructive
role in the transformation of football and society.
On celebrating 50 years Motaung said, “Obviously one feels a lot of
nostalgia as you look back at where you come from and at the journey
that has unfolded over so many years. There are many stories to tell
and I am very grateful that I am alive, and that God spared me, to see
our dream come true. When we started, a lot of people thought this is
one of those passing things that will fall by the wayside. There were
critics and sceptics who did not believe we were serious. When I look
back, I feel very proud and fulfilled. At least we did not disappoint
so many people and so many families who believed in us and shared our
dreams. We’ve made so many people happy, and that is what is so
important. The path we took was always meant to ensure we take people
along the way with us,” says the Kaizer Chiefs Chairman.
He futher remarks, “The ambition was to create something we could be
proud of. We strove to be recognized as an institution of excellence
and I think we have achieved that. But never in our wildest dreams did
we think we would be where we are today, a powerful brand loved and
supported by millions of people in every corner of the country and
across the African continent. Our success has come especially from our
supporters, who believed in us, had faith in us and committed
themselves to the brand. Our supporters are very close to us, it is
what has made a big difference in setting us apart from the rest of
the teams in the country. The support we garnered from them gave us
the strength and the courage to know that what we sought to achieve
was indeed achievable.”
He could not sit at the Kaizer Chiefs Village, however, and not
acknowledge the role of the club’s ‘founding fathers’, who committed
to the journey the club embarked on over 50 years ago and who
persevered against great odds.
“It is important to recognize the role they played. We hope that those
who take the baton from us will be able to continue the journey in the
same manner we did and even better than we have done. I want to thank
all those who were part of the journey, especially the players who
have represented Kaizer Chiefs on the field of play, who helped to
create this history. Those players who started with us, those who
joined and those who continue the journey, who have the responsibility
to ensure that as much as they were standing on the shoulders of the
giants who went before them, that those playing today will also be
seen in the same light as those who will follow them,” Motaung said.
Motaung also explains, “I can’t choose a favourite player and I don’t
want to be seen to be taking sides about who were the best Kaizer
Chiefs players. All the players who have played for Kaizer Chiefs have
played a part in our success and they are all very important to me.
It’s like your children, you know you have children, but you can’t be
seen to be favouring one over the others. You have to love them all
equally, that’s how I feel about our players.”
“The kind of organisation we have put together and the business we are
is one that gives opportunities and empowers other people. We’ve
contributed towards the development of communities at large and
through our social corporate responsibility projects we have touched
many peoples’ lives. On the political front, we played a significant
role in terms of withstanding and battling against apartheid and
supporting all those in the forefront of the struggle to pursue their
agenda of freeing our country from the stranglehold of apartheid.
Football played a significant role in our country’s emancipation and
we at Kaizer Chiefs are proud to have contributed strongly in the
political arena,” says Motaung.
As he spoke, the Gauteng province summer rains lashed the expansive
grounds of the Kaizer Chiefs Village in Naturena.
“It is a good omen for us,” reacts Motaung, adding, “in our culture,
if it rains it shows a lot of promise going forward”.
“It’s been 50 years beyond our wildest dreams” – Kaizer Motaung