Born in South Africa 1932. Mokone
represented South Africa at the youthful age of sixteen. He
was encouraged by the Wolves and England Captain Billy Wright
to try his luck in England. He became South Africa’s first Black
Professional footballer making his debut for Coventry City in
1956 at the age of eighteen.
Disillusioned by his treatment
and style of football at the club he played for only one season
in Coventry after which he achieved superstar status playing
for the Dutch side Heracles and later Torino in Italy. Mokone
studied in America gaining a doctorate in psychology and International
Politics he was also imprisoned for [8-12 years] for in his
view a fabricated offence.
He is at present a Minister for
South African Tourism based in New York. He also established
the Kalamazoo South Africa Foundation for education through
Sport. There is a film of his life in prospect. [Sigma Productions].
For many years in his youth, South
African soccer star Steve "Kalamazoo" Mokone juggled a tennis
ball to school. The skills he demonstrated on the uneven European
soccer fields of the fifties were phenomenal.
Mokone, the man who many rate as
the greatest footballer South Africa has ever produced, became
the first black South African to play soccer professionally
overseas when he went to England in 1955. "I would like to see
Okocha [of French team Paris St Germain] play my role.
I think his style is very similar
to mine. But I have no say in the matter," he said from his
home in Virginia in the US. Okocha was one of the most talented
players in the World Cup last year.
The proposed film on Mokone is
based on a book, The Black Meteor, by Tom Eigers, a soccer commentator
in Amsterdam. The controversial player, who spent nine years
in jail in the US for assaulting his first wife, was born in
Doornfontein in 1932 and grew up in Pretoria.
He became the first black professional
in Britain (and later in Holland) when he signed up for the
English club Coventry City in 1955. Mokone was the only South
African to be compared with the world's all-time greats, including
the undisputed king, Pele of Brazil. He was among the few players
in Europe who earned £10 000 a year.
Mokone's theatrics on the soccer
field cannot be replayed today because television coverage in
the '50s was not advanced.
One of the leading soccer writers of
the time, Beppe Branco of Italy, summed it all up in what should
be the ultimate accolade when he wrote:
"If Pele of Brazil is the Rolls-Royce
of soccer players, Stanley Matthews of England the Mercedes-Benz
and Alfredo di Stefano of Argentina and Spain the Cadillac of soccer
players, then Kala of South Africa, lithe and lean, is surely the
Maserati." Mokone's family moved to Sophiatown when he was about
six before they settled in Kilnerton, north of Pretoria.
His father, Paul, who studied to
be a Methodist minister but refused to be ordained, played cricket
and owned a fleet of taxis. Kalamazoo's father sent him to Ohlange
High in Durban to make him forget soccer and concentrate on
becoming a lawyer. But long before he passed matric he had become
a national superstar with Bucks. Scouts from Newcastle, England,
urged him to move over, but his father refused.
A year later Mokone's father relented
when Coventry pleaded for the services of his son. It took months
for him to get his passport because of the apartheid system.
Team-mates at Coventry knew he was something special at his
first training session when he sent their national goalkeeper,
Roger Matthews, the wrong way from the penalty spot. "Do it
again," they urged. Once more Matthews dived the wrong way.
Mokone became an overnight sensation,
prompting a journalist to report that "I haven't seen such clamour
in Coventry since the end of World War Two". Six months later
Valencia of Spain and Heracles were after him. It was not difficult
to convince him to move because he did not like the hit-and-run
Above all though, Mokone had been
unhappy at Coventry since his manager had said: "We brought
you over here and you are not satisfied. That's the trouble
with you people." He took it to mean that blacks were not grateful
for favours from whites. A second memorable debut with a European
team, Heracles, was beckoning.
It was 1958 and he scored two goals
for his new club against Frankfurt. The same season he was voted
the club's best player and helped them win the Dutch league
crown. By 1959 he was rated among Europe's top players, including
Di Stefano and Ferenk Puskas, the famed Real Madrid star and
captain of Hungary.
Eindhoven arranged for Mokone to
be their guest player against touring Brazilian side Botafago,
who had the legendary Didi and three other internationals. Didi
and Pele had just led their country to the World Cup triumph
in Sweden in 1958. Eindhoven lost 3-0 but the Brazilians were
all praise for Mokone.
Suddenly he was one of the most
sought-after players on the Continent and was called for guest
appearances with and against the best players of the day. He
guested for Valencia of Spain, who had Holland's number one
player of the time, Faas Wilkes.
The following year he played against
Pele and his team, Santos. He scored one goal in the 5-2 loss
but they were not disgraced. "No team could have beaten them,"
wrote Mokone in his autobiography.
"They pass a ball from man to
man the entire length of the field without their opponents ever
getting to touch the ball. Each player moved with the same grace
I had admired in Maria Callas, the late opera star." He signed
for Spanish giants Barcelona in 1959, but because they had their
quota of foreigners, he was loaned to Marseilles.
After a year, he had a three-month
agreement to play in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia. When that was
over, Marseilles tried to make it difficult for him to join
Torino, but he eventually succeeded and moved to the Italian
team. Like everywhere Mokone played, the people of this northern
Italian city swore by his soccer boots.
That was where, in 1961, he was
dubbed the Maserati of soccer players. He made another spellbinding
first appearance for Torino, scoring all five goals in a 5-2
victory against Verona. Months later on tour in Russia he became
the first foreigner to score a hat trick in a game against the
biggest team in the land, Kiev.
This is what a Russian writer said:
"In all my 40 years of reporting soccer from different parts
of the world I have never seen a player score a more beautiful
goal than the one Kala scored with a deflection off his chest,
save for Pele's goal against Sweden in the World Cup final in
he was arrested
He was just as much a hit in Australia
and Canada, where he ended his playing career in 1964. That year
he enrolled at Rutgers University in the US to study psychology.
Seven years later he was appointed assistant professor of psychology
at the University of Rochester after completing his doctorate.
In 1977 he was arrested and brutalised
by police on a charge of credit card fraud that, Mokone says, was
A few days after his release he was
picked up by police from his office at Rutgers and charged with
assaulting his wife. He served nine years in jail.
Today Mokone is the chief executive
officer of The Kalamazoo South African Foundation, which he founded
in 1996. It organises scholarships for South African students who
have attained a C pass in matric and are good at sport.
He is also on the board of directors
of the Commonwealth Sports Awards. Mokone says one of the highlights
of his life was having a street named after him in Amsterdam.
"People will come and go, but the name will live on after I
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