Former SuperSport United defender Ricardo Katza vividly recalls his adventurous high school days, thanks to one Brandon Truter.
In fact, the moment Truter’s name is mentioned at the start of a telephonic interview, he immediately bursts into laughter and affectionately refers to his former schoolfellow as ‘Brakkies’ – his childhood Afrikaans nickname meaning ‘small dog’.
They didn’t call him Brakkies for nothing! Truter was the rock-solid defender they looked to at Cape Town’s Oval North Technical School in Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain whenever it was time to frantically preserve a lead.
He was the same bloke they assigned whenever there was a slippery opposition striker to be tamed.
And Brakkies would deal decisively with all manner of ‘tasks’. If it meant going in hard, he never hesitated. Young Brakkies was decisive. He was as aggressive and iron-willed as the pitbull.
“I was Ricardo’s captain in high school,” Truter tells FARPost the moment he is asked about his time at Oval North.
It turns out his influence transcended the field of play. When any of the boys in his circle was afraid to approach a girl at school and needed someone to send, he was the man.
None of that has changed as he has proven to be the go-to coach for a few clubs in the past. And each time he takes over the reins, he deals with whatever dilemma resolutely. Just as heroically as teenage Brakkies dealt with problematic boys at school.
“We were in the same circle of friends in school, we used to call him Brakkies. It means dog in the coloured way. He was the one that would sort out any problem. He was our go-to guy,” Katza tells FARPost in a telephonic interview.
“You could rely on him, that’s the player he was and that’s the guy he was. Whether it was speaking to a girl or sorting out someone who was giving you problems, he was the go-to-guy.”
Of course, his time in the heart of defence was short-lived courtesy of a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. Sadly, his promising career was cut short just after he had broken into the Santos first team.
But, to Katza, pictured below, who saw how he operated on and off the field, it was clear he was destined for the dugout. Never did Katza doubt that his high school skipper would one day make a superb coach.
It didn’t even matter that Truter’s childhood was not a rosy one. He was born and raised in the ill-reputed Cape Flats, and like any other boy saw how life was on the rutted streets of one of South Africa’s most dreaded neighbourhoods.
But as his much-loved Good Book says, ‘all things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called to his purpose’, the events of his life – whether terrific or sad – seem to have worked out pretty fine in the end.
Perhaps his childhood at the notorious Cape Flats is why he never feared anyone. In fact, Katza says whenever he was called upon to “sort out” a bully, he would not ask too many questions.
“He wouldn’t ask what the guy did, he would just sort them out quickly. Of course, he wasn’t too big, but he was one of those guys you didn’t want to mess around with,” adds the former Bafana Bafana defender.
Interestingly, the only two head coach jobs he has held in his career at Richards Bay FC and now Swallows FC have proven that he is the one tactician you’re not exactly equipped to toy around with.
His flawless record – unbeaten with Glad Africa championship side Richards Bay – leaving them in second place midway through last season following his unceremonious exit, is true testament to that. They ended up escaping relegation by the skin of their teeth, settling for a 12th place finish.
On the other hand, picking up Swallows in 14th place, with little hope of ascending to the elite league, the 43-year-old coach shepherded them to an extraordinary streak surpassing his modest target of finishing in the top eight.
A run of 12 wins, three draws and one loss saw them clinch automatic promotion to the topflight.
Truter, born into a family of four, has never hidden that his family never had much, but just about enough to keep the wolf from the door.
“I grew up facing all the challenges like drugs, gangsterism, alcohol abuse and just basically struggling and hustling through adolescence,” he says.
Luckily, his parents were firm on him and his siblings, instilling sound values and discipline. So, when the ACL injury ended his career, he would certainly not agonise forever, but get on with life.
“I started out at Morgenster United then moved to Cape Town Spurs and from there to Lightbody Santos where I would eventually sign Pro and would spend more than a decade playing and coaching in their academy after calling it quits when I sustained an ACL knee injury which never healed properly,” says Truter, who also had loan stints with lower League teams including Mitchell’s Plain United and Juventus FC.
His rise in as far as coaching is a glaring reminder never to despise humble beginnings. His ‘thousand miles’ coaching journey started off in his early 20s when he coached at the Sanlam Santos Schools Development program.
“I was 21 when I took charge of the Under 17 team. My first cup final was against Hellenic. Vuyo Mere was the captain of Hellenic. We won that particular tournament,” Truter recalls.
Exactly two decades later, Mere has become an integral part of Truter’s trailblazing Swallows.
At Santos, a club established in Heideveld on the Cape Flats in 1982, he spent years instinctively honing his skills as a budding coach after which he went to Baltic Rangers FC, and then Cape Town All Stars.
Brakkies was called upon to ‘sort out’ Milano United’s youth structures in 2013.
As a result of his stints as an emerging coach, Truter has coached at all levels, right from amateur to semi-professional and now in the PSL.
While at it, he went through all the SAFA coaching levels as well as a CAF A License and various other Diplomas from the World Football Academy and the Germany Football Association.
“It was tough getting all these qualifications and it wouldn’t have been possible without sacrifices,” admits Truter.
It seemingly has been a case of opportunity favouring the prepared each time he gradually advanced to the next level in his coaching career.
But it all came at a cost. Sometimes it meant sleeping on the streets of Johannesburg because there was no money to book accommodation.
Twice actually, Truter had to fold his knees and bury his head inside them and ‘pray’ that the dawn of a new day would find him safe and sound on the dangerous streets of Jozi.
Of course, his upbringing in the ferocious world of the Cape Flats would have prepared him for such moments.
So, when it happened in 2002 that the corridors had to become his place of rest for the night and again in 2010, he embraced it all as part of a painful process that would eventually yield the desired results. And sure, it has! Finely so!
“I remember not having money to go to these courses and would hike up to Joburg and sleep outside the hotel because I would have gotten there a day earlier for the course and my wife and I didn’t have the money for the hotel.
“I would roam around the streets of Johannesburg until it was time to ‘sleep’.”
The dream was as clear as daylight. Its demands were obvious. It required such determination.
This time, it was not sorting out some bully for Katza & Co, but it was his future he was fixing. “It was tough to get where I am today, I never had money and I depended on good Samaritans to pay for my coaching courses. My family didn’t have much to assist me.”
The self-effacing coach mentions, among some of the people that helped him, the likes of Cape Town All Stars owner Lunga Ncwana and former Santos chairman, Goolam Allie.
He further credits the likes of coaches Allan Freese, Roger De Sá, pictured above, and Mlungisi “Professor” Ngubane for taking him under their wing and mentoring him as a tactician.
When it comes to Boebie Solomons, another man he holds in high esteem, the separation is clear.
“Boebie also played a huge part mentoring me as a coach at Santos,” he admits with gratitude.
But he jokingly makes it clear he did not like playing under him because Solomons shouted a lot at him.
Katza points out that “he was never the guy to exalt himself” after ‘taking care of business’.
Truter has remained the same, ever crediting others even when he has done the fixing.
*FARPost will publish Part 2 on Monday, January 11, 2021.
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