200 Young South Africans: Sport
In this section: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Teko Modise, Rene Kalmer and more ...
Mbulaeni Mulaudzi has been burning up the track since he abandoned football to take up athletics 10 years ago, but his staunchest supporters may not know this: the middle-distance runner is the first black South African athlete to be crowned number one in the world. Athletics South Africa presented him with a R50 000 cheque for his achievement in 2006.
Like fine wine, Mulaudzi seems to be getting better with the years. He stunned a classy field of the world’s finest 800m runners to take the gold medal at the World Championships in Germany last year.
It was a great meeting on the track for South Africa with Caster Semenya and Khotso Mokoena also winning medals.
This was, of course, before the Semenya debacle kicked in to overshadow the reigning 800m champion’s celebrations as the best middle-distance runner.
His consistency in the distance has ensured a steady flow of invitations to the most prestigious races in the world. It doesn’t hurt much that they also pay handsomely and he is able to live well on his athletics earnings.
The 30-year-old from Limpopo had made the final at four consecutive 800m World Championships before he stormed to victory in Berlin.
During his best season, 2004, he carried his country’s flag at the Olympics in Greece and won the World Indoor Championships in Budapest and an Olympic silver medal.
In 2006, Mulaudzi took silver in the World Indoor Championships in Moscow. He returned from an injury this year to win the two-lap race at the sixth Yellow Pages meeting held in Germiston in April. And that race proved that he is still the best middle-distance athlete in the country, if that was ever in doubt.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Mugg and Bean
Few will argue that Bafana Bafana’s talented midfield maestro should be playing in the top leagues of the world.
That Teko Modise, affectionately known as the General, or simply Ace, is still at Orlando Pirates is a bonus for the South African Premier Soccer League.
His form, which he seems to have rediscovered, will strongly influence how far the country progresses in the coming World Cup—Modise has been rewarded with the armband in the absence of Aaron Mokoena.
He is also the favoured brand among the corporates and fast-food chain McDonald’s has cashed in on his popularity, appointing him its 2010 Fifa World Cup ambassador.
The 27-year-old, who grew up in Soweto supporting Kaizer Chiefs but now plays for their bitter rivals, was the inaugural winner of the PSL Player of the year award in 2008. He won it again the following year, as his stock has continued to rise.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: McDonald’s
When she was in grade one, middle-distance athlete Rene Kalmer desperately wanted to run but was put off the idea by a friend who convinced her that it would be an unpleasant experience.
A few years later she was persuaded to try out for athletics at school and the rest, as they say, is history.
She first started running cross-country but has found a niche in middle-distance running. Her ultimate goal is to get that elusive Olympic gold medal.
To realise this dream Kalmer recently committed to being a full-time athlete, training in Johannesburg most days. And if she’s not training, you’ll find her relaxing with a good book—or dreaming of shopping and lazy days on a cool beach.—Ryan Hoffmann
Lunch spot: Primi Piatti
Graeme Smith has had an unlucky season. First the Proteas captain needed surgery on a troublesome elbow, then he broke his finger twice on the cricket field.
It was the nasty delivery from Australia speed merchant Mitchell Johnson that first did him in, then the same finger suffered further damage during the lucrative Indian Premier League when his campaign was cut short after the finger snapped while he was attempting to take a catch.
But South Africa’s Captain Courageous is known to overcome such setbacks with relative ease. He once batted with a broken hand in Australia as he tried to save his side from defeat.
The tall left-handed batsman is one of the most prolific run-getters in the history of South African cricket. He scored consecutive double centuries during South Africa’s tour of England in 2003—first getting 277 at Edgbaston, then a magnificent 259 at the home of cricket, Lord’s.
The 277 is the highest individual score ever made for South Africa, whereas the 259 is the best innings played at Lord’s by a foreign player. Smith is one half of South Africa’s best opening team and has been involved in each of the four innings in which the Proteas have exceeded 300 runs.
His Cobras teammate, Herschelle Gibbs, partnered him in three of those stands, and he batted with Neil Mackenzie in his world-record 415 partnership against Bangladesh in 2008.
Early this year Smith released his biography, A Captain’s Diary. All this, and he’s just 29. But then his achievements are hardly surprising given that Cricket South Africa trusted him to lead the Proteas when he was only 22, making him the youngest South African captain ever.
Those who criticised the decision at the time have been forced to sit back and marvel at this prolific batsman and leader.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Caveau Wine Bar and Deli, Newlands, Cape Town
Despite the fact that he spent most of his youth in Switzerland, racing driver Adrian Zaugg’s roots are proudly South African. Like many drivers, Zaugg started off on the carting circuit and quickly rose through the ranks to represent South Africa in the short-lived A1 Grand Prix Series, with his performances during the series ensuring that he became a household name.
Zaugg, who is currently testing for a place in Renault’s GP2 team, spends the time between seasons in South Africa, a place he describes as a second home. The world of professional racing is stressful and when he is not pushing the limits on the track, Zaugg likes to unwind by mountain biking ”up in the hills” .—Ryan Hoffmann
Lunch spot: Spur
Bafana Bafana Captain
Aaron Mokoena is used to pressure. At 17, he became the youngest player to wear the Bafana Bafana jersey, eventually taking over the captaincy from Lucas Radebe.
So, when Portsmouth took on Coventry City in the FA Cup this year, it wasn’t surprising that Mokoena scored the winning goal in the final minute of extra time.
At 29, Mokoena is at the top of his game, having played for Bayer Leverkusen, Ajax Amsterdam and Genk before moving to the English Premier League.
On the field he may be known as the tough tackling ‘Mbazo” but to the youth he inspires through his foundation he is the hero who brings football, along with messages of self-esteem, health and education, into their communities.
No doubt when he sings the national anthem during the opening game of the Fifa 2010 World Cup, Mokoena will be thinking of the four-year-old boy who kick-started his career on the dusty pitches of Boipatong.—Cat Pritchard
Lunch spot: The Meat Company, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg
Anna Noko Matlou
Anna Noko Matlou is probably the least celebrated sportsperson in South Africa despite achievements that have catapulted the country into international recognition.
The 20-year-old Limpopo-born Banyana Banyana star scooped the title of Woman Player of the Year at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) awards held in Nigeria last year.
She is the first South African, man or woman, to win this award.
Players such as Benni McCarthy and Lucas Radebe have been nominated but haven’t come close to equalling the prolific Banyana striker’s achievement in a sport that has traditionally been the preserve of men.
The award to Matlou was recognition by CAF of her consistent goal-scoring record for South Africa’s Senior Women’s National team in both official and international friendly matches—she scored 23 goals in 20 games.
She was crowned on the same night as Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who was named Player of the Year in the men’s category.
It was largely owing to her industry on the field that Banyana Banyana won their first women’s championship last year.
In that tournament alone, Matlou scored six goals, including a hat trick in the semifinal and a goal in the final, to share the Golden Boot award with Genevova Anonma of Equatorial Guinea.
At the awards ceremony former South African Football Association president Molefi Oliphant, who also chairs CAF’s women football subcommittee, was probably more elated than all the football bigwigs in Lagos for the event.
He said Matlou’s achievements would inspire many women back home to take the sport seriously.
Sadly, though, women’s football in South Africa continues to be very low-key. The incentives for the girl child to pursue the sport as an alternative career option are limited.
Banyana Banyana have an African star in Matlou and are a powerhouse on the continent, yet sponsorship for women’s football comes only in dribs and drabs.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: McDonald’s
South Africa has produced many great fast bowlers, guys such as Fanie de Villiers, Peter Pollock, Neil Adcock, Allan Donald and Makhaya Ntini. Dale Steyn is right up there with them—if not even better.
One report describes him as having been wary of his pace in his early career, as through he was worried that his extreme speed would injure the batsman.
These days Steyn couldn’t care less, as was evident during the India Premier League, when, in his own words, he was bowling faster than he ever had in his career and knocking batsman right off their blocks.
The Phalaborwa-born express bowler is capable of generating speeds in excess of 150km/h. He is currently the number one ranked Test bowler in the world and holds the South African record for reaching 100 wickets in the quickest time.
Steyn was named World Cricketer of the Year for the 2008 season in recognition of his immense talent.— Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Allora, Sandton
Bryan Gary HabanaRugby Player
Although named after Manchester football legends Bryan Robson and Gary Bailey, the Springbok winger opted for a rugby career.
Developed by the Golden Lions, Habana made his Springbok debut at just 21 against England at Twickenham in 2004, when he came on as substitute to score a try in the 32-16 loss.
It was to be the start of an exceptionally successful rugby career. Habana was one of the stars of the victorious Springbok team that lifted the 2007 World Cup. He scored eight tries at that World Cup to equal the 1999 record set by All Blacks’ big winger Jonah Lomu.
Habana was subsequently named the 2007 Player of the Year. He is still an integral member of the Springbok team and arguably the best finisher in the game.
But the 26-year-old Bok player has left the Bulls franchise in a lucrative million-rand deal to join the Stormers in Cape Town.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Pachas, Hazelwood, Pretoria
Cyril Mqadi learned to surf before he learnt to swim. But it is not something he is currently recommending to the 50-odd street children he coaches in Durban.
‘It’s dangerous; I don’t believe anyone should do that,” he says, laughing.
Mqadi was one of a bunch of kids who’d spend their post-school afternoons hanging around the beach in Mzumbe on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast when an offer of a loaned surfboard changed his life.
‘There were always surfers coming down to Mzumbe and my friends and I would be watching them and we got to know them. I must have been 12 or 13 years old, and one day Peter Maish [a surfboard maker] offered us a board and we picked it up from there,” he says.
The 32-year-old went on to compete as a junior surfer in local events between 1994 and 1999 and took up judging in 2000, becoming the country’s first internationally recognised black surfing judge.
He has officiated at both local and International Surfing Association events, including the Mr Price Pro and last year’s World Surfing Games in Costa Rica.
In between, he has translated the surfing judges’ rulebook into isiZulu and was the focus—together with his twin brother Meshack—of the 2008 documentary film,Zulu Wave Riders.
The same year he won an award from the Association of Surfing Professionals (Africa) for his work on the transformation of surfing in South Africa.
He believes there is still much transformation work to be done. ‘Black surfers get initial support, but there is no buy-in from government. We’re not getting any funding to send black surfers to compete overseas, and the government people just don’t care about developing the sport.
I’d like the fatties from Parliament, including the sports minister, Makhenkesi Stofile, to come down here and see how hard surfing is.”
Mqadi believes his current job, coaching street kids full-time, ‘helps keeps them human and gives them pride and focus. Once they’re on the water, these kids change completely,” he says.
‘We’re teaching them to swim, surf and also about ecological issues around the ocean. But it’s not just about surfing. These kids will hopefully realise that they can change their lives by maybe opening surf shops, or becoming lifeguards or divers,” he says.—Niren Tolsi
Lunch spot: Centre Court or the Ship Wreck, uShaka Marine World, Durban
Nicknamed the Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius is the world’s fastest man with no legs.
He is the double-amputee world-record holder in the 100m, 200m and 400m, running with the aid of artificial carbon-fibre limbs.
A fierce competitor who knows no bounds, Pistorius even races against able-bodied athletes—and wins. But the South African has had a rough time in his efforts to compete.
In 2007 he took the International Association of Athletics Federations to court after they banned him from running, claiming that his prostheses gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes.
He won the widely publicised legal battle and was able to compete for a place in the South African team for the Beijing Olympics.
Although he didn’t make the team, his victory was significant in that he had shown the world that disability does not mean inability. He took part in the 2008 Paralympic Games and scooped gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Anywhere that serves good lasagne
Tall, athletic and, to top it all off, very good-looking. It would be safe to say that the number one Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper has it all.
Itu, as he is known to those close to him, is the first choice in the goalkeeping department. By the time he turns 23 on 20 June he will probably have added another cap to his already glowing CV, fulfilling every footballer’s lifelong ambition—to play in the World Cup.
Khune was the preferred pair of safe hands for Bafana Bafana during the highly successful Confederations Cup last year and is on track to be between the posts during the World Cup.
This brilliant goalkeeper has won many accolades—he was the PSL Players Player of the Season and Goalkeeper of the Season and Kaizer Chiefs Player of the Season, in the 2007/08 season.
He scooped the SA Sports Awards Newcomer of the Year in 2008 and was named Rookie of the Season in the same year.
That Amakhosi have managed to hold on to him for this long is just plain luck. But, it remains to be seen whether the club can ward off interest in this great talent after the World Cup.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Any Spur
Big Wave Surfer
Heard of a little somebody called Charlize Theron? Yes? Well then, pay attention because that means you should have heard of Chris Bertish.
Because the surfing contest he recently aced is the Oscars of the sport. Mavericks, in Northern California, is the stuff of legend.
Pro surfers have died in its massive waves, which routinely top out at over 15m. Bertish won the invitation-only contest this year, earning himself the biggest prize in the history of surfing. He’s not the first South African to win it, but he did it in the biggest waves ever recorded in a big-wave paddle event.
Bertish is one of an elite group of death-defying surfers who tackle Big Waves. The phrase is capitalised for a reason. Think minimum of 6m walls of violent force that can slam you several metres underwater and you get the picture.
‘I was born into a family of three brothers and a father that got me involved in every water sport known to man from a very early age,” says Bertish.
Starting at age 10 meant that by 17 ‘surfing bigger waves became like an addiction, an obsession”.
Winning Mavericks was a lifelong goal for him, which, he says, has exacted huge personal sacrifice and financial drain over the past 10 years.
Indeed, Bertish’s CV reads like the diary of a man willing to do whatever it takes for the cause (read: surfing) with very little support.
He studied marketing and desktop publishing and worked in branding for a number of surfer labels—the most recent being O’Neill.
‘Unless you are a rugby, cricket or soccer player in this country it’s so difficult to get the necessary backing and support to go and compete around the world and represent your country,” says Bertish.
‘Which is such a waste, as there’s so much wasted talent in this country which never gets a chance to shine.” But perhaps the biggest waste of all is not acknowledging a South African who has worked damned hard and gotten immensely far at such a young age.
Bertish, from the M&G, thanks for doing us proud.—Verashni Pillay
Lunch spot: Codfather, Camps Bay, and Jamaican Me Crazy, Kenilworth, Cape Town
Gavin ‘Moses’ AdamsPro Skater
From Jo’burg to Cape Town, Gavin ‘Moses” Adams is hailed by street skaters as the hardest -working and best in the country—and is known to leave spectators in awe.
At the age of nine Adams watched his brother and his friends skateboarding and decided to try it for himself.
Ten years later Adams can’t remember the last day he didn’t skate—and it is that kind of passion and persistence that has brought him accolades from all in South Africa who know about street skating.
Adams’s sponsors include top skating gear companies such as KFD, DC and Volcom, as well as Skull Candy Headphones.
At 15 he was selected to tour and compete in London with Volcom and has gone on to compete in countless local tours. Adams has his own signature board with KFD skateboards and was the first South African to be in the International Circa Footwear team.—Lisa Steyn
Lunch spot: Guzzlers, Milnerton, Cape Town
Khotso Mokoena has every reason to feel somewhat short-changed by his country after being relegated to the periphery by the Caster Semenya hullabaloo.
The silver medallist long jump and South Africa champion sat ignored alongside 800m world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi as politicians centered on the achievements of young Semenya when the national team returned from Germany last year.
Even the media weren’t too concerned with the athlete, who had saved the country blushes when he captured the only medal won by a member of the bloated South African team that competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Still, the athlete remains one of the flag bearers of South African sport. He set a new African record in the long jump with a leap of 8.50m, which is also a national record.
Mokoena’s consistency in the long jump over the past 10 years has been remarkable. He came second at the World Indoor Championships held in Qatar this year and is one of the best bets to capture another medal at the Commonwealth Games, scheduled for India in October.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Anywhere that serves great chicken
The Proteas’ left arm fast bowler may be just 20 years old but he should have no problem taking anyone to lunch.
The Indian Premier League Dehli Daredevils franchise splashed out a whopping US$610 000 to entice the young bowler on to their books early this year, making him an instant millionaire in rand terms.
Only last year Parnell became the youngest player to be awarded a Cricket South Africa contract.
The potential of the young bowler has never been in doubt. He captained the South African U19 team to the final of the International Cricket Council and retained figures of 4-25 in his one-day international debut for the Proteas—a remarkable feat given that it was against the mighty Aussies.
He is also a handy batsman down the lower order. Given that the previous U19 skipper, Graeme Smith, went on to captain the national team, this young all-rounder appears destined for even bigger things.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Casa Bianca, Kings Beach, Port Elizabeth
Natalie du ToitSwimmer
In March, Natalie du Toit was honoured at the Laureus World Sports Awards during a colourful ceremony in Abu Dhabi—quite a feat considering that she was crowned alongside the Brawn GP formula team who are the reigning motor racing championships.
Also nominated for this prestigious award were the current rugby world champions, the Springboks, who, unlike the versatile swimmer, did not win.
The Laureus awards are bestowed on the greatest sportsmen and women in the world, and the event is broadcast live to more than 100 countries after a vigorous selection process that involves 46 judges.
The 25-year-old swimmer received the prize in recognition of the barriers she has broken between the able-bodied and the disabled, because she often races in both categories.
But Du Toit is most famous for her achievements at the Beijing Olympics, where she not only won gold medals in all five races in which she took part but was also the country’s flag bearer at the games. The swimming sensation entered the 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley, 50m freestyle, 100 freestyle and 400m freestyle.
Not surprisingly, she won the Whang Youn Dai Achievement award at the conclusion of the games.
She has continued to swim in 5km and 10km marathons, overcoming obstacles not encountered by her able-bodied rivals.
Du Toit, who is an accomplished and inspirational spokeswoman, has changed the lives of many aspiring individuals who aren’t necessarily even swimmers.
In 2002, awarding her the Western Cape Golden Cross, then-Western Cape Premier Marthinus van Schalkwyk summed up her achievements, saying she had gone ‘beyond gold and swam her way into the hearts of not only South Africans but the whole world”.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Fournos, Woodmead, Johannesburg
Bongani Khumalo’s story is a case of another country’s loss being South Africa’s gain. The 23-year-old moved from Swaziland at the age of two with his parents and has decided to play for the country that honed his football career.
The well-spoken Bafana Bafana defender, captain of Supersport, the club that has won the Premier Soccer League for the past three years, plies his football skills in the heart of central defence, where he has played alongside national team skipper Aaron Mokoena.
Khumalo was a member of the team that represented the country with distinction in the 2009 Confederations Cup and is almost a certainty for the World Cup squad.
Considering that, in 2007, the solid defender was playing lower-division football for Pretoria University, his rise to the top can only be described as meteoric.
Like many other gifted footballers expected to make Carlos Parreira’s team, this central defender is not far from landing a high-paying deal abroad.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Kream, Brooklyn, Pretoria
This year South Africa hosted one of the world’s best—if not the greatest-ever—cyclists when seven-times winner of the Tour de France Lance Armstrong graced the Cape Argus race.
And while most South African cycling enthusiasts caught a glimpse of the great cyclist for the first time, Johannesburg-born rider Daryl Impey belongs, for the 2010 season, to team RadioShack—a team co-owned and led by Armstrong.
The 25-year-old South African joined this elite group of cyclists late last year, having been on the circuit for just three years, after a series of impressive performances on the gruelling European circuit.
Impey’s greatest achievement on the road has been his outstanding performance in the 2009 Tour of Turkey.
Despite being pushed to the barriers by Dutch cyclist Theo Bos, the South African went on to win the race, though he broke two vertebrae in the crash.
It was a victory that enhanced his growing status as one of the best road riders in the world. As an illustration of the quality field that played second fiddle to Impey, the 27-year-old Bos is an Olympic silver medallist and five-times world champion on the track.
Armstrong’s RadioShack swooped on Impey after his former team, Barloworld of Italy, lost its sponsor.
At RadioShack Impey also works with team manager Johan Bruyneel, a Belgian who guided Armstrong and Spain’s Alberto Contador to their Tour de France wins.
Although he did not make the short list of the riders who will race in the Tour de France for RadioShack this year, Impey will have another shot, as he has a two-year contract with the team.
So, if you ever wondered what other motivations Armstrong might have had in coming to South Africa — now you know.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Butcher Shop and Grill, Sandton
It is safe to declare that no South African track athlete has ever generated as much interest as Caster Mokgadi Semenya.
The 19-year-old Limpopo-born middle-distance runner showed the world’s best a clean pair of heels when she broke the world 800m record at the World Championships in Germany last year.
The victory immediately placed her under the international spotlight, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Questions about her gender were raised, and the outcome of the humiliating tests conducted by the International Associations of Athletics Federations (IAAF) are still not verified.
The IAAF says it had to conduct the tests after she improved her times by 25 seconds in the 1500m and eight seconds in the 800m in less than seven months.
‘These are the sort of dramatic breakthroughs that usually arouse suspicion of drug use,” said the IAAF in a statement.
What is sad about this young athlete’s traumatic experience is that 12 months down the line the test results have still not been released and she remains banned from competing.
Although the IAAF was well within its rights to conduct tests if deemed necessary, leaked information to the international media about these suspicions has brought Semenya untold humiliation and the issue of her gender was turned into a political spectacle as politicians sought to raise their profiles at her expense.
Sadly, inquisitions about her gender have been part and parcel of Caster Semenya’s life. More often than not, she would be taken to the toilet during school races and asked by teachers to strip.
But, despite the fact that her privacy and human rights have been seriously violated, Semenya remains optimistic about running in the future and has hired a legal team to fight her case against the IAAF suspension.
In an interview with YOU magazine, Semenya, who has been called a hermaphrodite, declared that ‘God made me the way I am and I accept myself.” Perhaps everyone else should too and just let the young girl run her race.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Cappellos, Hatfield, Pretoria
After his impressive showing at the Cana Zone 3 and 4 Aquatics Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, early this year, Malesela Molepo could well become the first black South African swimmer at the Olympics.
The 18-year-old, who hails from Polokwane, bagged six gold, four silver and four bronze medals in the championships. He perfected his swimming in the backyard pool at home when he took an interest in the white-dominated sport back in 1994.
Molepo, who is determined to be a world champion, also met his first obstacle at home. His parents didn’t want him to take up swimming seriously, but he followed his heart.
He took swimming lessons at school and was spotted by an instructor at a gala in 2006. Today the young swimmer is the proud holder of 13 medals among a host of other notable achievements and on track to make the 2012 Olympics team.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: The Deck, Polokwane
Sifiso ‘Skizo’ NhlapoBMX Rider
Sifiso Nhlapo, the top South African BMXer, is the rider who was injured during the Olympic Games BMX final in 2009. But he has not lost hope.
Born in Soweto, Nhlapo became a pro BMX racer at the age of 16 and since then he has been South African Champion three times, Gauteng Champion and the 2006 African Champion.
In April Nhlapo was training in Norway, getting back in shape after spending months away from the sport.
Now he’s preparing for the BMX World Championships in Pietermaritzburg at the end of July. His ultimate goal is to be an Olympic medalist in 2012.
This 23-year-old does not only do it for the love of the game but also ‘to motivate the youth never to give up on their dreams, and to work hard to achieve what they want to achieve”.—Vuvu Vena
Lunch spot: Mom’s food, home
Steven PienaarFootballer, Everton
Midfielder Steven Pienaar’s career high was winning the Dutch league title in 2002 and 2004.
Pienaar, nicknamed ‘Schilo”, after the Italian footballer Salvatore Schillaci, the Golden Boot winner at the 1990 World Cup, was signed up by Everton on a three-year deal in 2008.
His career began with Ajax Cape Town, after which he moved to Holland with Ajax in 2001, then joined Dortmund in 2006 before moving to Everton.
He has played an instrumental role in the sport in South Africa, playing for Bafana Bafana in the 2008 African Nations Cup and the 2009 Confederations Cup as well as being part of the national squad in the 2002 World Cup.
Teammates from Everton have called him brilliant. ‘Every time we give him the ball it looks like something magical will happen,” said Tim Howard last year.
It has been said that Pienaar’s strength lies in the fact that he is an accurate passer and crosser who possesses a vicious right-foot shot.—Vuvu Vena
Lunch spot: Mom’s house
Kaizer Chiefs were livid when Mamelodi Sundowns lured defender Siyanda Xulu to Chloorkop last season.
Amakhosi’s anger is understandable, given the great potential of the young man who is arguably the brightest prospect in South African football at present.
Though only 18 years old, Xulu has already been called up to Bafana Bafana and is in contention for a place in the final 23-man squad that will represent the country at the World Cup. He joined the national team in the camp held in Brazil.
Xulu was again called up to be part of the squad that spent three weeks in Germany. If World Cup-winning coach Carlos Parreira thinks the boy is that good then the sky can only be the limit for the KwaMashu-born defender.
Parreira is not the only expert to have been impressed, Xulu is the subject of keen interest from some big overseas clubs. Arsenal are reported to be leading the race to take the teenage sensation to the Emirates Stadium.
Kick Off recently carried a story that suggested the English giants wanted him as a replacement for Kolo Toure, who now captains Manchester City.
But, faced with the prospect of losing their prized possession, Sundowns were swift in dismissing the story. Arsenal may be overtaken by Barcelona for his signature.
The central defender, who partners the ever-popular Matthew Booth in the heart of the Sundowns defence, made an impressive 25 appearances for the club. To top it off, he scored two goals.
The club has rewarded the youngster with jersey number 25, the number made famous by one of the greatest captains to lead the club, Michael Manzini, who won five league titles with Sundowns.
Xulu was dubbed Young Player of the Season at the Premier Soccer League awards take place later in May.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: At home
Neil JankelowitzJoint Managing Director and Founder: MSCSPORTS
MSCSPORTS (or PJ Products, as it was formerly known) was founded almost by accident on the back of selling a single Springbok rugby jersey at an auction one evening in 1999.
Since then the company has expanded to represent three core competencies—sports events, sports marketing and sports memorabilia—with clients including Toyota, OUTsurance, RAM, Samsung, Bidvest Bank, Hyundai and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government.
Thirty-four-year-old Jankelowitz has cultivated a unique working environment within the company through his hands-on approach and places a major emphasis on client and stakeholder relationships.
By building rapport with his clients he has managed to entrench companies such as RAM and OUTsurance within the local sports market.
His company has also placed more than R30-million worth of broadcast sponsorship on SuperSport through the sale of these rights to clients. But it is not all business.
Through the sale of memorabilia MSCSPORTS has been able to benefit many in need. The company has exclusive rights to market and distribute all official memorabilia for the Springboks, the Proteas and Bafana Bafana and it does so largely through fundraising auctions.
To date MSCSPORTS has raised more than R25-million for charities across the country. Bidvest bought 50% of MSCSPORTS in 2008 to form BIDSport—and Jankelowitz is chairman of the new entity.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Assaggi, Illovo, Johannesburg
Jacky Kwan Tai HoFree Runner/Parkour
Named after Jackie Chan, professional free runner and talent agency owner Jacky Kwan Tai Ho first saw what was to be his future on a plane to Hong Kong in November 2003.
That’s when he watched a documentary called Jump London, which showed traceurs (practitioners of Parkour) moving acrobatically through famous locations in London using the discipline of the fast-growing urban sport.
Though the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation site describes the sport merely as ‘the act of moving from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ using the obstacles in your path to increase your efficiency”, what it actually looks like is an elegant display of jumping, running, flipping and flying over streets and buildings and steps and benches and anything else that gets in their way.
In 2004 Kwan Tai Ho joined other traceurs in South Africa and, in 2009, started PkJOZI, made up of a group of friends who practise movement for the love of it and in their own way, with personal flare and style.
‘I personally do not believe in the word Parkour or free running,” he says.
‘What I do is move. Moving for me is about being able to look at the world differently, about being able to look through a pair of eyes that portrays our landscapes full of obstacles, and the ability to surpass those obstacles.
Most importantly, though, true moving is about being able to express my movement under, over or through any landscape as fluidly, beautifully and as controlled as possible.”
And that’s exactly what he does. Kwan Tai Ho has appeared in local and international television adverts for products from Coke Zero to Levi’s.
He’s also been featured in the music videos of stars such as TKZee, Skwatta Camp, Zulu Boy, Loyiso Bala and Jamelia as well as in South African productions such as My World?, Footskating 101, and an upcoming local movie about vampires.
Kwan Tai Ho it isn’t about the show. He takes his art seriously. Movement, he says, is about mastering his environment and seeing the world as his canvas. ‘My freedom of expression mirrors the brush strokes to an art which is perfect in my heart.”—Vuvu Vena
Lunch spot: The Westcliff Hotel, Johannesburg
He has been labelled a cocky athlete in some European quarters for his penchant to play to the gallery in full view of television cameras.
But what you cannot take away from the 25-year-old runner is his long-distance talent. He produced a breathtaking finish at the Yellow Pages South Africa Athletics championship in March this year and won the 10 000m well within 90 minutes. He also out-sprinted pre-race favourite Juan van Deventer to win the metric mile in 3.38.55.
Only last year Mokoka improved his personal best when he clocked 28 minutes 21 seconds to win the 10km race in Stellenbosch.
The national half-marathon champion is one of the major medal hopefuls for the 2012 Olympics set to take place in London.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Ocean Basket, Hatfield, Pretoria
Michael HughesGeneral manager, Stellar Africa
Stellar Africa, whose shareholders include Bidvest and the Stellar Group, was formed in 2002 and Michael Hughes joined the company a year later, his primary role being to sign young and upcoming football and cricket talent.
The company’s first cricket client was Protea spinner Paul Harris, and its first football client was Kaizer Chiefs defender Jeffrey Ntuka, who, at the time, was signed to Chelsea FC. Both players gave the company credibility and the opportunity to attract other professional sportsmen.
The company’s current local stable includes Jacques Rudolph, Rilee Rossouw, Peter Grant, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Katlego Mphela; overseas clientele include the likes of Phil Vickery, Ashley Cole and Kolo Toure.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Parreirinha, Rosettenville, Johannesburg
Mario and George MorfuFootball Club Owners
Football runs in the veins of these two young entrepreneurs. The brothers, who were born and bred in Witbank, are the proud owners of Premier Soccer League Mpumalanga Black Aces.
They bought the team in 2004 when it was languishing in the lower rungs of the leagues and guided it into the top flight league in 2008.
The promotion came against the backdrop of the acquisition of the franchise of then-Division One team City Pillars.
The elder of the Morfu brothers, Mario (34), was a gifted player in his younger days, playing professionally for AEK in Cyprus in 1996 before returning home to don the Witbank Black Aces strip between 1997 and 1999.
He was also picked for the national under-17 team. But, his career was cut short by multiple injuries, including five knee surgeries. His younger brother, George (31), played for Newtons in the Cape in 2001 while studying at Stellenbosch university.
He was player/manager of the Stellenbosch university Football club, known as Libertas, which conquered all tertiary institutions in the country, thumping Wits, Tuks, the University of Cape Town, Rhodes and African champions the university of the Western Cape.
The brothers take pride in being partners in all their businesses and the fact that they ‘work as a team in all we do”.
They come from a close-knit family and their father, Laki, is life president of the club. Having just survived relegation, the brothers are determined to bolster their team for the coming season—Mpumalanga Black Aces, known among their followers as Amazayoni, have cast their net abroad.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Any à la carte food from Sandton
A team from the United Kingdom-based television programme Transworld Sport was recently in South Africa with a Pretoria-based table-tennis player as their target.
They spent close to week profiling the life of rising star Zodwa Maphanga in a sport dominated by players from Asia.
The 19-year-old is relatively unknown back home and it has taken the efforts of an outside broadcaster to showcase her to the world.
Maphanga is a member of an elite group of athletes dotted around the world who fall under the guidance of Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, probably the finest Olympian to emerge from Africa.
His G4S4teen programme mentors young athletes and helps them fulfil their dreams to compete in the Olympics. Maphanga, the Africa under-21 doubles silver medallist, took the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Youth Games and the ninth All Africa Games.
In her spare time, the talented ping-pong player hosts training sessions for orphaned children from SOS Children’s Village in Mamelodi.—Phathisani Moyo
Lunch spot: Capello, Hatfield, Pretoria