On 18 December 1965 in Limpopo a player who would go on to be one of South Africa’s greatest football talents was born.
The late John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu is probably one of the greatest attacking midfielders to ever come out of Mzansi and grace the football fields.
Moshoeu started his career with an amateur club in Soweto called Diepkloof Wales before joining Giant Blackpool which is where his qualities were noticed with the midfielder turning heads with his dazzling sulky skills, an eye for a pass and his ability to get into scoring positions and convert goals.
It is at Blackpool where ‘Shoes’ teamed up with Fani Madida and Geelboy ‘Gomma Gomma’ Masango to be famously known as the ‘MMM’ – an attacking trio that terrorised teams scoring goals left, right and centre.
In 1991 people would remember Blackpool going all the way to the JPS Cup final against Dynamos, but they ended up on the losing side on the day, much to the disappointment of Moshoeu. He featured 175 times for Blackpool scoring 75 goals in the process before leaving the club.
Next stop Kaizer Chiefs…
Moshoeu was a man in demand with the Soweto duo of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando pirates all after his signature. After recovering from a career-threatening injury where he had broken his leg and didn’t play football for 6 months, he made a decision to join Amakhosi in 1993.
“I joined Kaizer Chiefs officially in 1993 from Giant Blackpool. Chiefs had to dig deep on their pockets as they had to pay a fee of R250 000, breaking the existing transfer records in the domestic league at that time. I was proud to have joined my favourite Club. I remember Orlando Pirates had tried to raise the money to buy me, even opening a bank account where they asked their fans to deposit money, but in the end Chiefs paid for my services,” said Moshoeu some years ago.
He stayed only half a season at Chiefs before being recruited to join Turkish side Genclerbirligi as he looked to take his career to the next level.
It is in this period where the midfielder also made his debut for the national team in 1993 scoring on debut against Botswana under coach Augusto Palacios who was at the helm of the national team at the time.
‘Shoes’ stayed at Genclerbirligi for two seasons scoring 5 goals in 25 appearances for the club before joining Kocaelispor in 1995 which is where he made his mark in Turkey showcasing his abilities as a key member of the team in attack and being the spine of the team.
Moshoeu stayed at Kocaelispor for two seasons scoring a good 20 goals in only 76 appearances for the club which was amazing for a player who played a much deeper role in the team. In the 1996/97 season Moshoeu helped the club to cap off a good season with a Turkish cup victory and that would prove to be his farewell season as he gave them his final gift before departing.
In 1996 Moshoeu was part of the generation that won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations as hosts under coach Clive Barker, scoring some crucial goals. ‘Shoes’ finished the tournament as the second highest goal scorer with four goals.
The SA national team was basically unplayable with a huge backing from the local football fans two years after South Africa achieved democracy. 25 years on no generation of Bafana Bafana players has surpassed the class of ’96’ as that is the only time South Africa has won the tournament and ranked the highest(16) in the world since re-admission to international football in 1992.
Back to club football, his good seasons with Kocaelispor didn’t go unnoticed as Turkish giants Fenerbarhce came calling for his services in 1997 and he signed for a reported 2-million Euros at the time.
Moshoeu played 75 games scoring 15 goals in the process for the club where he was known for being a fan favourite at his time there with his elegance on the ball and ability to beat a few players before creating or scoring goals.
Moshoeu was coached by current Germany national team coach Joachim Low in the 1998-1999 season before the arrival of coach that would win him his only league title in Europe. Werner Lorant won Fenerbarhce the league title in the 2000-2001 season before coming runner up the next season.
‘Shoes was part of Bafana Bafana’s first ever Fifa World Cup squad in 1998 in France under coach Phillipe Trousier where Bafana Bafana were knocked out in the group stages.
In Afcon 1998 he also formed part of the team that nearly defended the trophy losing in the final to Egypt as well as the 2000 team under coach Trott Moloto that lost in the semi final to Nigeria but went on to finish third in the overall tournament.
Back in Turkey Moshoeu decided to leave Fenerbahce to join Bursaspor for two more seasons featuring 48 times and scoring 7 goals, before taking a decision to come back home.
In 2003 ‘Shoes’ made headlines for making a move back to Kaizer Chiefs after 10 years in Turkey. The midfielder’s acquisition would prove to be the x-factor that Kaizer Chiefs needed as the midfielder made an instant impact in the 2003/04 season finishing as the club’s top scorer with 11 goals to help Chiefs win the Absa Premiership trophy for the first time in over a decade. He also helped Chiefs win the Coca Cola Cup.
The next season would literally be the same pattern as Kaizer Chiefs did the same thing again winning the 2004/05 Absa Premiership title together with the Coca Cola Cup.
In 2004 Shoes played his last game for Bafana Bafana at the age of 38 against the Super Eagles of Nigeria to put an end to a long and rather successful national team journey with 73 caps and eight goals registered to his name as a national team player.
At the end of the 2006 season ‘Shoes’ ended his Kaizer Chiefs stay joining AmaZulu for two seasons where he featured 51 times and scored 5 goals.
In 2007 ‘Shoes’ scored a goal for Amazulu against former club Kaizer Chiefs at the age of 41, 11 months and 17 days to set a new record which he still holds for the oldest player to have ever scored in the Absa Premiership .
Between 2010-2014 Shoes played for Alexandra United in the then Vodacom League scoring over 25 goals before hanging up his boots in May 2014.
In April 2015 South Africa was hit by a dark cloud as ‘Shoes’ was subdued by cancer at the age of 49.
He will always remain a hero to many who followed after him. He will always be amongst the best players to have doned the Bafana Bafana jersey.
One of the greats to have been witnessed and a legend in the game, we salute you ‘Shoeeeeesss’.
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By Prince Sobayeni