Kaizer Chiefs celebrates Heritage Day today, having this month reconnected with its roots and with many of the former players who were so central to the Club’s success over the years.
The beauty of Kaizer Chiefs has always been its multicultural nature and appeal, and the strong ties it has formed with many communities across the country, the continent, and the world.
All of this was vividly displayed when the Club recently travelled to KwaNongoma in KwaZulu-Natal for the tombstone unveiling of charismatic former Amakhosi director, Wilfred ‘China’ Ngema.
The Zulu Kingdom is a particularly special region for the club, popularized by former players of the club like Abednigo ‘Shaka’ Ngcobo, Michael ‘Bizzah’ Dlamini and in more recent years, Siyabonga Nomvete.
But the Club’s popularity in the region – and across South Africa – was also largely due to the efforts of Mr. Ngema, who was among the founding members of Kaizer Chiefs and who was instrumental in setting up the Club’s supporters’ structures that continue to reach all corners of the land.
Amakhosi footballers from various of generations, among them the likes of Joseph ‘Banks’ Setlhodi, Jackie Masike, Lucky Stylianou, William Shongwe, Marks Maponyane, Brian Baloyi, Absalom ‘Scara’ Thindwa, Cyril Nzama, Nhlanhla Kubheka and Nelson ‘Teenage’ Dladla travelled to Nongoma to represent the Club in paying their respects to Mr. Ngema.
Maponyane said it was important for Chiefs players to remember Mr. Ngema and hailed “the impact he left on all of us”.
“He would shoot from the hip and call a spade a spade. He was a different leader, because there are many types of leadership. He was a father figure to us, one of many father figures we had at the Club,” said Maponyane.
Thindwa also praised Ngema and his ability to recognize the importance of the Club’s heritage and culture.
“As a Swazi, first of all, the Swazis and the Zulus are regarded as one nation. When I joined Chiefs, he was one of the people I spoke to about the team, how they had done well over a period of time before I joined, and the importance of making sure we continue to do well together as a team. Chiefs is not just an ordinary company, it’s a special company and a special team and, because it’s a special team, I needed to be special as well, to train well, be disciplined and to do everything I can to retain my jersey,” said Thindwa.
Fellow Swazi, Shongwe, said Mr. Ngema was instrumental in his Chiefs career from the moment he arrived at the Club, noting, “What excited me the most was how he respected the fact that I came from the Kingdom of Eswatini. Coming from KwaNongoma himself - where King Goodwill Zwelithini came from as well - he was well acquainted with what royalty means to the people. He was always vibrant and outspoken.”
Shongwe applauded the Club’s efforts to integrate the different generations of Chiefs players, saying, “To go anywhere you have to know where you come from, to understand the roots of the Club.”
For Kubheka, as the youngest member of the delegation, the trip was a very special one.
“The first time when he saw me, he just gave me a smile and said welcome on board my son,” Kubekha said, recounting his introduction to Mr. Ngema. “He gave me words of wisdom and said, in order for me to stay at Kaizer Chiefs I needed to remain humble and stay focused on my vision. I never looked back. For me, Honouring Mr. Ngema and also honouring the legacy the Club carries, shows all what Kaizer Chiefs is about.”