In June 1967 in the dusty streets of Soweto one of the best ever South African midfielders to ever dawn the jersey of Bafana Bafana was born.
Named Theophilus Doctorson Khumalo, he is one of the players who won almost everything there is to win domestically and also was part of successful continental journey with Bafana Bafana.
Khumalo started his playing career with Soweto club Moroka Swallows in 1984 playing with the youth team until Kaizer Chiefs snapped him up in 1985 to come play for their youth team instead.
Part of this decision was influenced by Khumalo’s father, the late Eliakim ‘Pro’ Khumalo, who’s one of Kaizer Chiefs’ greatest players of the 70s and early 80s.
Khumalo Junior made his debut for the mighty Amakhosi in 1987 under coach Ted Dumitru against Chiefs’s biggest foes Orlando Pirates and it would be a start of what would be a an illustrious career for the attacking midfielder as he had an instant impact in his first years there.
‘Mdokisi’ entered a period of dominance in his career in the early 90s helping Kaizer Chiefs win three League titles in 1989, 1991 and 1992 league seasons which was one of the most successful periods by the club in its history. Khumalo also helped the ‘Glamour boys’ to win as many as 9 cup competitions between 1987 and 1995, which is amazing in just seven years.
On a personal level, he won the Player of the Season in the 1992 campaign truly making him the greatest player in South Africa at the time.
‘Mdokisi’ was also selected to be part of Bafana Bafana’s first ever squad after re-admission in 1992. In fact, it is his penalty that won Bafana Bafana that game against Cameroon at King’s Park, Durban. Khumalo featured for Bafana Bafana as they fell short in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign and also the 1994 World Cup qualifiers as they finished second behind Nigeria.
It is, however, in 1996 at the Africa Cup of Nations that was hosted in South Africa where ‘Mdokisi’ would prove his worth for the national team playing a star role in the attacking midfielder role. He will always be remembered for that near accurate pass Mark Williams in the final against Tunisia to finish them off as South Africa became African champions just four years after being welcomed back to the international football scene.
One of Bafana’s memorable games came in 1996 as African champions South Africa hosted world champions Brazil.
Brazil was the best team in the world with players such as Beberto and Rivaldo in the mix. Many expected Brazil to beat South Africa easily but it wasn’t to be as Bafana Bafana totally dominated the South Americans in the first half with Khumalo’s corner leading to a goal by Phil Masinga and minutes later ‘Mdokisi’ smashed the second into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
The Brazilians went into the locker rooms stunned as Bafana Bafana ran rampant with Khumalo at the centre of it all. In the second half it was more of the same until coach Clive Barker took off Khumalo then it went all sour for Bafana who went on to allow Brazil to come back to win 3-2. Barker has been taking the stick for that substitution all his life and in a recent interview with Robert Marawa on #MarawaTV he explained that the midfielder had ran out of gas and had to subbed.
In 1997 Khumalo made headlines again for setting up Phil Masinga’s goal against Congo that helped South Africa reach her first ever FIFA World Cup in France, which he eventually went to with the national team but unfortunately would see little game time under coach Phillipe Trousier with South Africa bowing out in the group stage.
Back in his club career Khumalo signed with renowned agent Marcelo Houseman who negotiated his transfer to Argentinian club Fero Caril Oeste in 1995 on loan but he only played 4 games scoring once.
In 1996 he made another loan move to Columbus crew in the new Major Soccer League in the United States and played 43 times scoring 5 times for them before coming back to parent club Chiefs. After returning from America between 1997 and 2002 Khumalo won more trophies before retiring having played a total of 397 games in all competitions scoring 75 goals in the process of a very successful career for him there.
Kaizer Chiefs honoured him after his retirement and made it official that his famous jersey number 15 would be retired at the club and until today, there is no player who has worn the jersey.
Khumalo controversially missed out on the 1998 Afcon squad as Bafana nearly defended the title falling in the final against Egypt. The midfielder would hang up his international boots in 2001 having played 50 games for Bafana scoring nine times.
He truly earned his mark as a legend of the game in South African national team colours as he was part of the class of players that represented South Africa after re-admission and also the class of players that brought glory to the country in 1996.
Khumalo then ventured into a managerial career and down the line, even served as technical director at Baroka.
To ‘Mdokisi’, you’ve earned your legendary status and at FARPost, we salute you.
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By Prince Sobayeni