Where are they now: Johannes 'Ryder' Mofokeng, former captain of Kaizer Chiefs

28 March 2010 - 02:06 By Ernest Landheer

Johannes "Ryder" Mofokeng captained Kaizer Chiefs for 11 years. But his appointment in 1975 was without fanfare

Then-coach Eddie Lewis broke the news to the right back with the words: "Ryder, I am telling you, I am not asking you - from now on you're the captain of the side. You can go now!"

Born in 1952 and having grown up in Orlando West, Mofokeng, aged seven, joined White City Lucky Brothers, a team that played just behind Soweto's Orlando Stadium.

"We didn't have coaches in those days," reflects Mofokeng. "But 'Beans' Moloto, a first-team player, guided me a lot with advice from the under-16s onwards."

When Kaizer Chiefs was formed on January 7, 1970, Mofokeng was one of four players from White City Lucky Brothers to be invited to join Amakhosi's reserve side. Three years later, he made his first-team debut, before becoming Chiefs' captain at 23.

"A real captain leads the team before the game, during the game and after the game," Mofokeng says. "A captain also has to take charge when the chips are down."

Fortunately, the chips weren't down too often during Mofokeng's captaincy as his reign coincided with Amakhosi's "Golden Era". In this purple patch between 1975 and 1985, Chiefs won four league titles and numerous cups.

There was, however, one minus to the tough-tackling right-back's game. "I only scored one goal in my entire career," a smiling Mofokeng says. That came in a Mainstay Cup match against Blackpool in 1977.

Fixtures were hard-fought in those days, sometimes literally.

Mofokeng recalls a game against Durban City in 1979, featuring the physically strong Butchy Webster. The midfielder's tough play irritated Teenage Dladla so much that the Chiefs star lashed out, causing Webster, who was hit in the face, to fall down. While Webster got assistance from Durban City's first-aid man, Chiefs' Wagga Wagga Likoeba took the opportunity to get an ice cube.

"That first-aid man reacted furiously to Wagga Wagga taking some ice," Mofokeng recounts. "This resulted in Likoeba punching the first-aid man. It was bad, but funny at the same time, because the medic was now lying on the ground next to Webster. Luckily, both recovered quite quickly."

Mofokeng stresses that players at the time were physically stronger and taller.

"These days, players are so small," says Mofokeng who himself isn't exactly the tallest. He remembers Orlando Pirates in the 1960s with players like the Khoza brothers (Tikkie, Mainline and Msomi), Kaizer Motaung, Zero Johnson and Russia Jacobs.

"They were all tall and physically strong. Clubs must now start scouting differently, maybe even looking at some white clubs as we need players like Neil Tovey, Jimmy Joubert and Eric Tinkler to compete at international level."

But Mofokeng also feels "our football must return to its roots. At Chiefs, we used to play entertaining two-touch football. Players must be given more freedom to play. Look at Barcelona, Arsenal or even Chelsea - that's entertaining soccer to watch led by European coaches. However, we seem to attract foreign coaches who stifle our talent."

He mentions Lewis as a former Chiefs coach who added to the South African style of play. "Lewis brought discipline to the last line of defence, but otherwise the players could do what they wanted."

Mofokeng became a coach at Chiefs after his playing days, being mostly involved in the club's development.

He's still a goalkeeper coach, grooming Amakhosi's next Itumeleng Khune.

Now a widower - his wife died two years ago - the father of five ( four girls and one boy) is writing his memoirs at the request of his daughter Patience. There will surely be interest among the Chiefs faithful to read Mofokeng's autobiography. He was recently selected by the Amakhosi fans as the club's fourth-most popular player of all time after Ace Ntsoelengoe, Doctor Khumalo and Khune. Not bad at all!