Where are they now? Shoe-Shiner turned captain is now a succesful oach

25 April 2010 - 02:27 By Bareng-Batho Kortjaas

Lawrence Siyangaphi would make a killing in the shoe-shining business. He perfected the art of spit 'n polish as a skinny 17-year-old at Benoni United soon after joining the pro ranks from home side Daveyton Fast XI.

"I used to polish boots for a squad of 18 senior players on the eve of matches. I made those boots so shiny I turned them into mirrors. Those guys could see their faces, that's how good I was."

The Siyangaphi shoe-shining business never took off because the man bitten by the football bug at the tender age of five is still hooked on the game at 46.

Today, the former United, Witbank Aces and Jomo Cosmos midfield mainstay is the brains behind Sister Monica's Youth Development Soccer Centre, which he started in January in Daveyton on the East Rand.

It is understandable for the father of two, as an ex-teacher, should use combination of school and soccer to shape the future of the 35 youngsters under his guidance.

"The idea is to keep them in school to chase their academic achievements in the classroom, while simultaneously pursuing sporting excellence on the soccer field. We have two teams, under-15 and under-17. We want to make leaders out of these boys."

His teacher friend, Zama Dladla, coaches the under-15s and Siyangaphi hones the skills of the under 17-side by imparting the knowledge gained in his 10-year stint as a pro footballer.

Lessons of responsibility and accountability are dished out.

"It is the duty of the youngest players in both teams to set up all the training equipment and to put it away. It takes little things to learn big lessons.

"The Michael Owens of this world started in that fashion as youngsters."

He believes "knowledge is power" and is adding more qualifications to the Safa level-one coaching badge he obtained in 1993. He has already passed a University of Johannesburg training session planning course.

He trained at the East Rand College of Education, obtaining a teaching diploma, which he topped with a method and organisation of sport course before teaching at Mabuya High and Caiphus Nyoka Secondary.

As a player, the transition from shoe-shiner to captain was rapid - he turned out to be a born leader.

"I captained Benoni, Witbank Aces and Jomo Cosmos. I am never one to keep quiet and people saw a leader in me. I was not just a talker, my performances surpassed those of the older players."

At Aces he commanded older players, including Dumisa Ngobe's father Junior, Frank Makua's uncle Disco, Harris Cheou and Eric Masilela, the father of Bafana Bafana leftback Tshepo Masilela.

"They trusted and respected me as an equal because I proved myself," he recalls. "They used to tell me to do whatever I liked and they would back me up. I was buzzing and untouchable."

Jomo Sono came knocking in the middle of the night to court a player he believed could bring a new dimension to his team.

"People say Jomo is stingy. But he offered a too-good-to-refuse R10000."

That was a lot of moolah in 1989.

Apart from winning the Bob Save Super Bowl via John Salter's header against AmaZulu, Cosmos became the first South African outfit to reach the semifinals of a Caf competition after South Africa's readmission to the international football fold.

But why would a guy be nicknamed "Sister Monica"?

"There was a nurse at Boksburg-Benoni Hospital, Sister Monica. She was compassionate and passionate about her job and knew how to make patients believe they would get healed. One guy from the township drew parallels between her passion and mine. Because I knew how to motivate my teammates into believing in themselves, he called me Sister Monica - and it stuck."

He never played for Mamelodi Sundowns, but his style was not far from the ball-on-the-ground, shoeshine-and-piano approach inspired by the Brazilians of yesteryear.

"I was a provider and creator and scoring was a bonus."

At Cosmos, Chippa Masinga, August Makalakalane and Eric September were beneficiaries of Siyangaphi's constant supply of passes.

Married to Wizzy, he says people say his children - Barbie Doll is nine and Mbuyiselo seven - "are too young for a man my age. It is simple. I never started a family while still playing because I was never going to have time for them. I did not want to be an absent father because we travelled a lot.

"Now I am around them and giving them enough quality time."