How a young, promising Bernard Parker slipped through Sundowns’ fingers
Former Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs attacker Bernard “Die Hond” Parker could have joined Mamelodi Sundowns as an apprentice but lost patience with the Brazilians' management as they dilly-dallied in offering him a contract.
Parker, who is launching his autobiography, From a Shack to Destiny, on Thursday in Ekurhuleni, was lured to Chloorkop for trials by development coach Sam Mbatha and immediately impressed then assistant coach Khabo Zondo at Sundowns.
But Sundowns took their time in offering the hugely promising forward, who later also played for Red Star Belgrade in Serbia and FC Twente in Holland, a contract and he was lost to Benoni Premier United.
It was at Premier United — where he played with the likes of July Mahlangu, Tsepo Masilela, Katlego Loke, Tshepo Mashishi, Thabo Mabaso and Irvin Mhlambi — that he blossomed.
Parker talks about how he overcame poverty in Reiger Park, how he excelled in other sports, life at Kaizer Chiefs, the Transnet/SAFA School of Excellence and Benoni Premier United, how he nearly joined Mamelodi Sundowns, going three months without a salary at Red Star Belgrade in Serbia and many more fascinating stories of his successful career.
“Coach Sam Mbatha left us at the School of Excellence to join Sundowns and they came to steal a lot of players like Sipho Nunens. Sundowns also tried to take players like Richard Rantjie and a few other guys who went into Sundowns' academy but did not make it,” Parker said.
At the once-flourishing School of Excellence, Parker played with players like Daine Klate, Richard Rantjie, Masilo Mudubi and the late Jeffrey Ntuka and Boy-Boy Mosia who went on to represent various national teams.
Because of the influence of Mbatha, Parker left the School of Excellence to train with Sundowns' juniors but what followed was a litany of empty promises and he was forced to leave the club.
“I went to Sundowns and I caught the eye of coach Khabo Zondo who I travelled with to training at Chloorkop because he stayed in Vosloorus. I travelled with coach Khabo every day to training with no pay.
“It was tough because I just needed the money to get us going at home. I hoped that Sundowns would put something down for me because Benoni Premier United were knocking.
“I was training at Sundowns for nothing and I needed to take a decision on whether I went with Premier United because they were prepared to give me a salary.
“It was so tough because when I was with the Sundowns reserve team, coach Ted Dumitru was the senior coach and the team had stars. Peter Ndlovu came back from England, there were good players like Gift Leremi and Sipho Nunens.
“It was a team full of superstars and it was difficult to be promoted to the first team. I said to the management that I couldn't do it any more because I needed to provide at home, and I decided to join Benoni Premier United.
“I went to Chloorkop with my mom and she told them to release me. They made me sign a piece of paper for five years and they promised that I was going to get a certain amount.
“But for a few months I didn’t get paid. That piece of paper was just to keep us calm and quiet and we went back to Chloorkop and my mom exploded in isiXhosa.
“I never heard my mom speak in isiXhosa, [even though] she is from the Eastern Cape. But they insisted that they wanted me. Mr Dumisani Ndlovu of Benoni Premier United said he would make a plan and he was good on his word and I joined his club.”
Parker, 37, now turns out for Sekhukhune United, who he joined after leaving Chiefs in August 2022. He spent 11 years at Amakhosi.
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