Remembering Coach Reggie Shelembe

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The KwaZulu Natal soil was desirable fertilized by the passing of Coach Reginald Mduduzi Shelembe in 2007.

So rich was the brain of Coach Reggie that the Zulu nation soil continue to harvest in splendor and harmony ever after.

However, those who enjoyed the necessary proximity to Coach Reggie will attest that both the soil and the people of Natal duly benefited from one of the most talent, enigmatic and silent genius in this quiet figure.

Today, FARPost and its entire technical machinery pays a fitting tribute to the former Maritzburg City Coach.

a. Who is Coach Reggie Shelembe?

Reginald Mduduzi Shelembe was born in Tugela Ferry ( Umsinga), an area famous for bloody inter-tribal wars between the 1970s to early 1990s. He then moved to Pietermaritzburg around the age of 13 to do his secondary education.

According to a close lieutenant and solid confidante Coach Thabo Dladla, Reggie stayed with an “aunt” at Mpumuza who was not related to him. “Actually he never knew his biological mother (parents),” remembered Dladla.

He attended schools like Georgetown, Laduma and Mehlokazulu High Schools where he excelled in football. He also played at local level for a team in Mpumuza with his best friend, Bongani Gwala. It was during this period that his name became known not only in Pietermaritzburg but around the province of KwaZulu Natal.

b. Early education and football initiation

When he completed matric, he went to study at Mpumalanga Teachers College. At the college he had an opportunity to study pedagogy and amassed the vital knowledge to impart to his learners and football players.

He continued to surround himself with likeminded individuals and expert in both education and football, and that led to an amazing indulgence in critical thinking and understanding of the sophisticated Maximal Training Philosophy applied by his closest friends and colleagues Dladla and Zipho Dlangalala.

c. Professional football career

He signed his first professional contract with African Wanderers – ‘Abaqulusi’, the feared football club that produced countless stars from the province. At Wanderers he had an opportunity not only to don the famous club jersey but to train and play with the legendary Samora Khulu, Velaphi Sikhakhane and many others. Dladla alluded that Reggie “was a utility player capable to play both as a midfielder and defender – his biggest strength was his insight and an ability to pass both short and long”, a trademark that is rare commodity in the current PSL era.

“A clean footballer that relied more on his head than brute force,” confirmed Dladla.

At a later stage AmaZulu FC recruited him to play for them. It was at this period that Amazulu supporters called him “Yize Bekhala” because Wanderers fans were very unhappy with how Amazulu acquired him. They were saying that the player is theirs even if the opposition fans are complaining.

However, it was only when he joined Bush Bucks that he won a medal in the JPS Cup when they defeated Orlando Pirates. This was the team that had the likes of Professor Ngubane, Calvin Peterson and many others.

d. Maritzburg City Project

The Maritzburg City story is an interesting one because Coach Reggie initially was not going to be a coach. The team came about after Mr Bongi and Mrs Phindi Hlophe bought Savages FC, a White team in the then Vodacom League.

Later, Mr Jabulani Mahlaba, a local school principal recruited him to the club. They initially battled for players up until boys from Imbali Transnet sponsored programme joined them. Dico Mchunu, Mbulelo Old John Mabizela, Nsizwa Mnyingwa and Andile Cele are some of the well known names that joined. It should also be noted that over 30 players from this programme played for various National Teams and professional clubs.

It is also worth noting that the style of play was not accidental. The club right from the beginning was established not only to win competitions but also to entertain the fans, educate the young footballers the correct way of playing the game and to develop role models after the violent period of the 1980’s due to United Democratic Front (UDF) and Inkatha misunderstandings.

Generally, Pietermaritzburg people love to do things in style whether it’s weddings, funerals or just dressing up for a weekend outing. It was through a consideration of the above that the club decided that they will always take an initiative instead of reacting.

Defenders had to be highly technical and intelligent to initiate, participate and finish the actions. The play was based on short passing combinations, individual actions encouraged, inventiveness and improvisation promoted. The team played with rhythm and co-ordination.

It should be noted that creative play is very demanding on the brain and body. City was also helped by the scouting of players from Basotho Tigers of the likes of Jimmy Tau and Bobo Tlhageng who had similar technical upbringing as the generation at the club.

e. The generation produced

In collaboration with Dladla, Dlangalala and Manqoba Mngqithi, Shelembe has played an outstanding role in the development of football and players from the province.

Some of the famous products from City include, Mabizela (played and captained Orlando Pirates) also played in England for Tottenham Hotspur, Cele (played for Lamontville Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates).

All in all the City programme produced players who played for the junior and senior national team players.

f. Conclusion

Even though the soil of the province is rich from the constant nourishment by Coach Reggie, the real mood of the passing of this coaching giant was best summed up at the funeral by Mhlanga Madondo, a local coach who echoed that: “It will take about 20 years for Natal Midlands to recover from this loss”.

By FARPost Technical Study Group

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