Unplugged by BBK
Bartman the Batman was a dependable brother
Those who played with him knew behind them stood the last line of defence with a dependable pair of gloves
When the name African Wanderers crops up in conversation, the image of the Three Musketeers is conjured up in the mind of those conversing.
No, it is not the novel or the movie of the same title that springs to mind.
For the folk of the football fraternity, the name is the moniker bestowed on the fearsome threesome of Phumlani "BMX" Mkhize, Sibusiso "Rhee" Zuma and Siyabonga "Bhele" Nomvethe.
They are a terrific trio who ruthlessly rattled the back of the net with gay abandon.
They benefited from a languid Tholomuzi Blose, who had a penchant for planting an inch-perfect pass with his educated left foot for the feared Abaqulusi firing squad to lurch onto and bang the bullseye.
Behind them, that frontline relied on a last line of defence with a dependable pair of gloves.
Those gloves belonged to Arthur Bartman, the former goalkeeper who breathed his last breath on Friday when he lost a battle with meningitis.
His pronounced chest and branchy arms showed the build of a boxer whose fist you wouldn't want to have a joint venture with your jaw.
Those who spent time with him between the white lines of the football field knew that behind them stood a warrior worth taking to the trenches.
His almost 20-year career sprang into action in the 1997-98 Premier Soccer League season when the son of Pietermaritzburg made his professional bow for Wanderers.
The fact that he went on to keep goal for over 15 teams until calling time on his career in 2013 paints a picture of one who dedicated his life to the game.
His close comrades speak of someone who was reserved to the point of being shy.
Yet once he stepped onto the pitch and got stuck in the thick of things, that shyness gave way to a commander who barked instructions to his rearguard to keep their wits about them.
When they slept on the job, Bartman the Batman could be trusted to swing his body and stretch every sinew in his system to pull off some stupendous saves. When the Durban sardine Wanderers sank into relegation seas, the bigger sharks from Joburg in the form of Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs came circling in for a transfer feast.
Zuma and Mkhize went to Orlando.
Nomvethe and Bartman went to Naturena. The journey from Pietermaritzburg to Jozi was followed by numerous travels as the wanderer who had his moments of doing wonders between the sticks proved a jolly good journeyman of many destinations.
Bush Bucks in Mthatha.
Moroka Swallows in eGoli.
Dynamos in Giyani.
Bay United in eBhayi.
Golden Arrows in eThekwini.
SuperSport United in Tshwane.
And, and, and. He came full circle and finished where he started with Maritzburg in Umgungundlovu, meeting his death while he was the goalkeeper coach of his hometown club.
Bartman upheld discipline and didn't scoff at rolling up his sleeves and knuckling down to hard work.
He lived a simple life, did Arthur.
He never allowed himself to be sucked in by fame and fortune and its accompanying trappings of booze and drugs, a trap that prevented many a promising career from blossoming. The longevity of his career bears testimony to that fact.
He is an example we can hold up. Bartman didn't win a gluttony of gongs.
It is my submission that he is an example we can point at and collectively proudly say:"That man embodied professionalism."
He never gave anyone a headache. But he started experiencing headaches at 46. Meningitis floored him. To his wife, Kim, their children, family and friends, you are not alone. The Three Musketeers of African Wanderers did all they did because in Bartman the Batman they had a dependable brother.