Tuesday, 19 July 2011

RIP Johannes 'Mzion' Mofokeng

The passing of Johannes 'Mzion' Mofokeng this week has shocked everyone in South African football. I first met the Orlando Pirates official 'Number 1' supporter a few months before the 2010 World Cup and interviewed him several times for the book I have written on the tournament.
Here is an exclusive extract in tribute to a real football fan.

Born to a local pastor in the 1950s, Johannes Mafokeng’s family been forced to move from Meyerton - a small town to the south of Johannesburg - to a newly-built township 20 kilometres up the road called Sebokeng in 1966 after the National Party introduced its Group Areas Act.
At an early age, Mzion was forced to choose between his two major passions in life– football and the church. The former won hands down, even if his nickname provided a constant reminder of his religious background.
By the time Nelson Mandela had been elected as South Africa’s first black President in 1994, Mzion was a celebrity in the world of local soccer. He became known as the face of ‘The Bucs’ and travelled with the team to Cote D’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan to see them win the CAF Club Championship in 1995, as well as throwing his weight behind the fledgling Bafana Bafana team.
On my visit to meet Mzion a month after Holland and Spain had met in the World Cup Final at Soccer City, it didn’t take long to find his house. Everyone in his part of the township knew where he lived and a massive Orlando Pirates badge painted on a stone outside his driveway gave the game away when we eventually reached his road.
The flags of the tournament’s 32 competing nations still fluttered in the wind on a warm day in early spring as Mzion arranged to show me his astonishing collection of memorabilia. The padlock to the shed where everything is kept was stubbornly refusing to open but his son Nale – aptly wearing a Spiderman costume – was enlisted to climb through the window.
A stream of colourful makarapas and vuvuzelas were handed through to his father, including one effort that featured the faces of Sepp Blatter, Danny Jordaan, Irvin Khoza, Molefi Oliphant and Kaizer Motaung.
“It’s a tribute to all the people who made it possible for the World Cup to come to this country,” Mzion told me with pride.
As we sat down to start the interview, Nale and his older sister Thuli appeared and they had changed into their Bafana Bafana shirts to match their father. The same passion clearly runs in the family.

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