Who will ever forget those beautiful Friday nights at Milpark? You didn’t necessarily have to be a Bidvest Wits enthusiast to admire the harmony of the Brass Band.
The way the club’s faithful supporters, proudly clad in the Bidvest Wits colours, blended in with their much-loved and adept Brass Band was as phenomenal as the club itself. And the Brass Band, ever in its element, never disappointed, often turning on five-star performances on the stands.
Quite interesting, the club – over its years of organically evolving from a varsity team providing recreation for students to a competitive topflight professional club that won many trophies – has lived to the psychology of its colours.
Any memory of a fan clad in Wits colours at Milpark is bound to bring up the club’s white home kit and the navy blue jersey that effortlessly conveys importance, confidence, power, and authority, as well as the intelligence of the brilliant Wits student. Not just that, but stability, unity, and conservatism.
As if to aptly complement the darker shade of blue, the white obviously speaks of perfection. Such has been the incessant, meteoric rise of the Clever Boys over their 99 years of existence.
But mid-July as South African football lovers were eagerly awaiting the return of football after a lengthy Covid-19 enforced hiatus, they received the shock of their lives, at least in football terms.
The Wits they knew was about to be no more, so to speak. Its nonpareil legacy, knitted together over decades courtesy of the sacrifices of football-loving administrators, dedicated coaches, talented footballers, and loyal devotees, was about to be swept away.
Sadly, what has been built over 9 decades and 9 years was being swept away in an inelegant and lumbering manner. The pain of everyone associated with the club was and still is explicable. Anyone would be forgiven for likening it to a used and jilted lover.
Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila Football Club clumsily announced its purchase of Bidvest Wits via social media instigating anger, confusion, and disbelief, justifiably so.
“For me, it was the prerogative of Bidvest as a company to withdraw from its partnership with the university and its sponsorship of the club. It was entitled to make a business decision, but what surprised me was the way it was done. I believe the club was given 48 hours to find a new partner or sponsor.
“After 99 years of existence, 48 hours seemed somewhat hasty in terms of giving the club the opportunity to continue in existence after almost a century of proud contributions to the South African football fraternity,” says Derek Blanckensee, who started off as a development player in 1976.
He went on to coach the club’s Under 14s in 1978 before rising through the ranks to become CEO of the professional club after the turn of the millennium.
Truly, the trophies may carry dust, but memories will last forever!
“I’ll miss that Friday night feeling of preparing for a match. There won’t be matches where I rock my Wits shirt with pride and an attitude. I’ll miss such moments,” Thato Mogotsi tells FARPost. Mogotsi, aged 22, is son to club director, George Mogotsi, who joined the club in 1984 as a 25-year-old.
“My son was equally devastated when he heard the news. He was born at Bidvest Wits,” Mogotsi senior adds.
The leader of the famous Wits Brass Band and staunch supporter of The Students, Mike Moloantoa, will never forget the kind of sacrifices they made for the team. Moloantoa reveals that his Brass Band used their own money to travel to matches in Gauteng.
“We never thought such a thing would happen to us,” he says.
Bridget Ntuli, pictured above, who has been responsible for preparing players’ meals in the last 9 years, says the end of the Wits era still feels like a dream. She keeps hoping someone will wake her from a slumber and tell her it was all a joke.
“It feels like a terrible nightmare, it was a terrible surprise. The thought that there will not be those chilly Friday nights at Milpark is saddening. I can’t begin to imagine how life would be without those celebrations with the Brass Band. It was a family team. You just knew you were at home,” says Ntuli.
Over the next 10 days, building up to Wits’ last Absa Premiership game against Polokwane City next Saturday, FARPost will dig into the annals of the Students’ history and share the many memories as we countdown towards the end of an era.
Part 2 of the Countdown to the End of an Era will be published tomorrow midday.
By Mthokozisi Dube