To date, Manning Rangers remains the only football club from the KwaZulu-Natal Province to ever lift the Absa Premiership title since the PSL inception in 1996.
Rangers went on to finish top of the Log, 8 points above second placed Kaizer Chiefs who were the favourite for the title.
Coached by Gordon Igesund, the Mighty Maulers had the likes Bradley Muir, Simon Makhubela, Mark Davies, Kerryn Jordan, Liswa Nduti, Innocent Chikoya and Clinton Larsen.
But one special find was a 22-year-old lanky striker, George Koumantarakis who went on to finish as the League’s second top goal scorer with 17 goals behind Wilfred Mugeyi of Umtata Bush Bucks who scored 23 goals.
FARPost caught up with Koumantarakis who is now a successful businessman in Durban to reminisce about the good all days.
“I was still a youngster so it was my great first season where I scored a lot of goals and that’s the only team from KZN to ever win the PSL,” said Koumantarakis.
“It was a fantastic time and yes I reminisce about it and obviously staying in Durban I get reminded about it all the time because Chatsworth had a fantastic atmosphere, the people obviously never expected that we would win the championship but we did,” said the 46-year-old.
“So yeah it brings back great memories, also I was young back then hungry to succeed so yeah it comes back you know. Sometimes when I lose my hunger or appetite for certain things in life I think back on those times when, how hungry I was for success so the Manning Rangers success always comes back because that was my first taste of success,” he said.
Koumantarakis was loaned to SuperSport United the following season and went on to win the League’s top goals scorer accolade with 14 goals before joining FC Luzern (Switzerland) in 1998.
“In the era that I played we had just came back into the international fold everyone wanted to play international football and get a test of European football and none of us were big names at the time so all of us were very good local players but no one had really been proven overseas.
“Initially we were going to smaller clubs maybe in Turkey and staff but lowly it started to become to a lot bigger European clubs and having successes. I think the players nowadays are getting paid a lot more than we used to get paid so obviously the top players in South Africa are making quite a lot of money and I think they feel they rather be a big fish in a small pond and not take the step forward and so they don’t push themselves as hard,” he added.
Koumantarakis also went on to play for Swiss giants FC Basel, Preston North End (England), FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt and Greuther Fürth (both Germany).
He was also part of the South Africa World Cup squad in Japan/South Korea in 2002.
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By Ofhani Munyai