Legend of the week: Sizwe Motaung

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Born in the town of Newcastle on the 7th of January 1970, Sizwe Motaung went on to become one of the best right backs in South African football history and created a name for himself playing for the biggest clubs in South Africa – even having stints abroad as well.

In his youth career, Motaung was groomed and nurtured in the ranks of Chippa Dynamos and Durban Leeds before being scouted by Jomo Cosmos who recruited him in 1991.

At Cosmos the defender would stay two seasons commanding a regular starting place between 1991 and 1993. His performances for Cosmos had the big clubs on alert as they all wanted to sign him from ‘Ezenkosi’ in the early 90s, eventually Mamelodi Sundowns managed to convince him to join them in 1993.

In his first season with Sundowns he helped the club win the BP Top Eight trophy and finished second on the log behind Orlando Pirates in the 1994/95 season.

In 1992 South Africa was welcomed back as a member of FIFA after being banned for two decades because of Apartheid. It is in that very same year that Motaung made his debut for the national team participating in World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaigns.

It was in this era that South Africa would host the 1996 Afcon and eventually go on to win the tournament on home soil and Motaung was part of that squad.

Under coach Clive Barker, Motaung would establish himself to be one of the best defenders in the country with some even arguing that he was the best right back ever produced from our shores up to date.

After his success with the national team in the 1996 Afcon, he attracted interest from a few overseas clubs before eventually putting pen to paper with Swiss top division side FC St Gallen at the beginning of the 1996/97 season.

St. Gallen had already won the Swiss Super League years before his arrival and were a well established club.

The South African international would go on to play 15 games for the club in the 1996/97 season before an opportunity to join Spanish La Liga side CD Tenerife came for him a season later.

Tenerife offered him an opportunity to play at the highest level at the time. In fact, the season before he joined them they had just finished as semi finalists in the UEFA Europa League .

Motaung only stayed a season in the Spanish top flight playing only 13 games in the league before moving back to South Africa to join Kaizer Chiefs in 1998.

At ‘Amakhosi’ he became a constant feature as Chiefs came close to winning the league on two occasions finishing second in the league in both the 1998/99 and the 1999/2000 seasons.

In 1998 Kaizer Chiefs tasted cup glory winning the Rothmans Cup meaning Motaung won silverware in his first season back at home.

Before the beginning of the 2000/01 season, Motaung opted to join Kaizer Chiefs arch rivals Orlando Pirates helping the Buccaneers to win the league title in that season at the expense of his old club Kaizer Chiefs who finished a whopping 19 points behind Pirates.

Unfortunately, that would be his last season playing football.

In 2001 at the tender age of 31, Motaung passed on after falling ill, a great loss to the SA football fraternity to lose such a good player at a young age. Motaung is part of our history as he was part of a generation of players who won the Afcon- a success none of the other generations have surpassed until today.

He is one of a few players who have played for all three of SA’s big clubs; Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns and he still remains one of a few South Africans to have played in the Spanish top division.

Rest in peace to one of the greatest right backs SA has ever had and he will always be remembered for his contribution to the game.

RELATED STORY: Legend of the week: Helman Mkhalele

By Prince Sobayeni

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