John Barnes, a Liverpool legend and one of the world’s most popular footballers, has wished Kaizer Chiefs a very warm 50th birthday and declared in no uncertain terms that he is “Amakhosi4Life”.
Twenty six years ago to the day, on 29 May 1994, Barnes captained the Liverpool team that faced Amakhosi for the first time in a United Bank Festival match, and played to a goalless draw at Ellis Park.
In a recent video interview moderated by Kaizer Motaung JR for KCTV, Barnes said the “brilliant” experience led to him instantly become a dedicated Kaizer Chiefs supporter.
“A lot of the Liverpool players were a little nervous before the game, because of the fires and firecrackers going off in the stands, and because of the noise of the crowd. I had played against African teams before and being from Jamaica I was used to it. So I knew what to expect and I got what I expected, the passion, humour and love of the fans, their support for Liverpool and of course for their club Kaizer Chiefs,” Barnes said in the interview, in which Amakhosi goalkeeper on the day, Steve Crowley, also participated.
Barnes singled out Doctor Khumalo as the standout Amakhosi player and as “one of the most skillful players” he had ever played against, no small feat for a man who played 314 times for Liverpool and has 79 international caps for England.
For his part, Crowley was proud of the “nice little bonus” of keeping a clean sheet in such a major game against one of the best clubs in the world.
“It was one of the most enjoyable occasions of my football career. The crowd was brilliant and Ellis Park is my favourite ground to play on,” says Crowley, who is a big Liverpool fan.
Another fantastic memory for Barnes from this game was meeting Nelson Mandela, who just two weeks before the game had been inaugurated as a democratic South Africa’s first State President.
“Being in South Africa at the time of such great change in the country was much bigger than football. On this trip I was also doing a programme for Granada television on the change in South Africa and my director asked me if we could try and get an interview with Nelson Mandela. So, as Liverpool captain, I introduced Madiba to the Liverpool team and just before the game kicked off I said to him I am doing a documentary and asked him if it was possible to do an interview with him. Right then and there, he wrote down his address in Houghton on a piece of paper and said I could come around tomorrow, and I ended up sitting down with him for three hours,” laughs Barnes as he recalls the amazing moment.
Barnes again played for Liverpool in South Africa in a legends game against the Amakhosi in 2013, and he has developed a deep love and admiration for the club.
His message to the club, as it celebrates its 50thanniversary this year, is powerful and heartfelt.
“The message I want to give Kaizer Chiefs is not just one of congratulations, but it is one that should fill the club with immense pride. The Kaizer Chiefs of 50 years ago, when it first started as a small little thing, who would imagined it would be what it is now? I’ve known and seen Kaizer Chiefs over the last 20 years or so since 1994, but this club was started in 1970 by someone who had a dream and said ‘let’s not just start a football club, but let’s start a movement’ which has grown into what it has become today. The one who should take all the glory is not the Kaizer Chiefs of the last 20 years, it is the man who started it all 50 years ago and we should never forget that,” says Barnes.