Cape Town – Kaizer Chiefs have been celebrating Heritage Day this month by connecting with its roots, and with many 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 Chiefs 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, popularised by former players of the club like Abednigo ‘Shaka’ Ngcobo, Michael ‘Bizzah’ Dlamini and in more recent years, Siyabonga Nomvete.

The club’s popularity in the region, and across South Africa, was also largely due to the efforts of Ngema, who was among the founding members of 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 generations, among them 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 the late Ngema.

Maponyane said it was important for Chiefs players to remember Ngema and hailed “the impact he left on all of us”.

Maponyane continued: “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.”

Thindwa also praised Ngema and his ability to recognise 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,” said Thindwa.

“When I joined Chiefs, he was one of the people I spoke to about the team, how they had done well over some 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 do everything I can to retain my jersey.”

Fellow Swazi, Shongwe, said Ngema was instrumental in his Chiefs career from the moment he arrived at the club.

He said: “What excited me the most was how he respected the fact that I came from the Kingdom of Eswatini. He came from KwaNongoma, where King Goodwill Zwelithini came from as well. He was well acquainted with what royalty meant 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,” said Kubekha, as he recounted his introduction to Ngema.

“He gave me words of wisdom and said, 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 honouring the legacy the club carries, shows all what Kaizer Chiefs is about.”

IOL Sport

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