Bidvest Wits: An era not short of humour

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The Bidvest Wits era was certainly not one short of humour.

Former Bidvest Wits CEO Derek Blanckensee shares two interesting incidents that happened under his watch.

The club winds off a successful era on Saturday when it plays its last game after being sold to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila recently on the eve of its century celebrations.

Blanckensee, who left the club in 2010 after joining in 1976 as a development player, says there were obviously many hilarious moments over his many years at Wits.

The one that gets him laughing unstoppably is that of a guy who went by the name of Spanner Badat.

“He drove the bus, worked behind the counter in the tuck-shop, and was also the team’s “physio” on the bench. Seriously. One day a player named Dickie MacMillan got injured near the corner of the penalty area, having been caught in possession and kicked by an opponent.

“Spanner dutifully rushed on with his medical bag, heaven knows what he kept in there, ready to ‘treat’ Dickie. As he arrived, he said to Dickie ‘but it’s your own fault, don’t dribble, pass the ball man’. Dickie was less than impressed with this unsolicited advice. He jumped up, making a miraculous, instantaneous recovery, kicked Spanner’s medical bag so that it flew open and spilled its contents, and shouted at Spanner, ‘You’re supposed to treat me, not tell me how to play’,” Blanckensee tells FARPost.

And then there was another time when the club’s regular stadium announcer did not turn up for duty. Blanckensee recalls that they asked Hugh Melamdowitz, who played for the student team at the time, to take over the announcing duties.

“He stuck to the normal script for a while, until our opponents in the match scored a very suspect goal. Hugh’s announcement went ‘and that offside goal makes the score ….’,” he says.

The club has its roots at Wits University in Johannesburg, where it was formed in 1921 by the university’s Students Representatives Council. The club competed in a variety of tournaments and leagues before eventually winning promotion to the National Football League in 1975 – then South Africa’s top domestic league.

“Being from a liberal university meant that we valued free speech above conformity and allowed him to continue, but from then on he was constrained to remain a player only,” concludes Blanckensee about the Melamdowitz incident.

For Thato Mogotsi, son to Wits director – George Mogotsi – the funniest incidents involved his dad, who has been with the club since 1984. Funnily, both incidents had to do with celebrations after cup triumphs.

“I remember 2 cup games – one in 2014 and the other recently against Orlando Pirates – when my dad ran across the field after Wits won and he picked up 2 hamstring injuries,” says the younger Mogotsi, who was first taken to a Wits game aged 6 months.

The young Mogotsi also pulled a funny one himself back in 2010 (after beating AmaZulu 3-0 in the Nedbank Cup final) at the FNB Stadium.

“In 2010, I was told not to go onto the stage, I went onto the pitch to lift the cup with Wits. I just wanted my friends to see me on TV,” says Mogotsi, who was 12 at the time.

Another funny incident was when a female Wits student protester holding a #FEESMUSTFALL banner ran across the pitch. The student, Busisiwe Catherine Seabe, ran in the 78th minute of the game across the pitch waving the #FEESMUSTFALL banner. After dodging Campus Control on the pitch, Seabe was eventually stopped by new Clever Boy S’fiso Hlanti who didn’t seem too impressed with her actions.

“He actually just asked me what am I doing? What was on the banner?’,” said Seabe.

According to Seabe, she and other FMF members went to the match without the intention of protesting.

“We were just watching the game funny enough and everyone bought tickets to support the team,” Seabe told Wits Vuvuzela at the time.

Seabe said that while watching the match, she was inspired to stage an unplanned protest on the pitch.

“Bidvest is a large part of the Wits community. If Bidvest can come on campus and ask students for support then surely the students can ask them for support when we are facing issues of accommodation, fees,” Seabe said.

RELATED STORY: Alois Bunjira: ‘What a way to lose a 99-year old legacy’

By Mthokozisi Dube

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