Moroka Swallows Big XV 1968-1978

After Moroka Swallows Big XV, triumphs in the SASL, the 1968 campaign was a disappointment one as Swallows flattered and eventually played second fiddle to arch rivals, Orlando Pirates who were crowned the 1968 NPSL champions.

In an effort to bring back the glory days, in 1969 players such as Irvin “Pepe” Dire, John “Special” Makhubu, Steve “Brixton” Maseko, Moses “Njilo Njilo” Maseko, Jonas “Paradise” Sello, and Blessing “Killer” Mngidi, were tasked with restoring the trophy laden culture of the club’s glorious past. There was an improvement in the team, and they didn’t go home empty handed though and managed to win the NPSL title.

However, thereafter the NPSL was beset with administrative problems. Apart from administrative problems facing the league, disquiet was also growing among some of the top teams. The anger which was building up among these clubs burst open when they declared publicly that they would not take part in the league unless the contentious clauses were removed. The clubs argued that the 20 percent deducted by Sabfa for the travel fund was high. Clubs also opposed the ruling that players be paid R6 a game saying this was too little. Given the fact that Sabfa was an associate member of the Fasa, there was a feeling among clubs that the new league was going to partly help finance NFL {Fasa’s professional wing.}

As a result, Moroka Swallows Big XV, Mangaung United, Pretoria Spar, and Witbank Aces formed their own League in Meadowlands, but it only lasted for four months.


In 1970, Moroka Swallows Big XV didn’t play in any League, but only featured in cup competitions. It was in that year when The Beautiful Birds played what must be arguably their best football in their history. They played in a Rogue Champions of Champions Cup final against the now defunct Pimville United Brothers at Orlando Stadium, which earlier in the day fixtured Swallows against Orlando Pirates, and Kaizer Chiefs against the PUBS.  The “Skom Boys”, as PUBS were affectionately known in football circles were in their most devastating form. The stage was packed to capacity with some spectators flowing even near the touchline. The sheer majesty of Moroka Swallows Big XV led by the evergreen Blessing “Killer” Mgidi, John Special Makhubu, the late “Swing Cralie” Masike, was matched by the boundless magic of  George “Brains” Mchunu, William “Chris Rollaway”, and the masters of the scissors kick at the back Ndlovu, James “Mebra” Qgosha, and Johannes “Yster” Khomane. The game went into recess with Swallows leading 3-0 with goals from the late “Swing Carlie” Masike, John “Special” Makhubu, and Blessing “Killer” Mgidi. In the second half, Pubs changed the course of the game in one of the most spectacular fashion ever seen at any soccer field in South Africa, scoring three brilliant goals to reduce the deficit. No one could believe it. Three goals down with 15 minutes left, no one could have made such a dramatic comeback. But with some fans already moving towards the exit, and some anticipating an extra time, with a minute to go no one had reckoned with a blistering goal from the boot of Blessing “Killer” Mgidi which clinched the game for Moroka Swallows Big XV. After this winner, Swallows earned themselves a R1000. 00 first prize and the hero of the day, “Killer” walked away with the sports star of the week. Guess what the prize was? A pair of trousers worth R14 from a clothing company in Fordsburg.

That year, Swallows Big XV boasted Jimmy Bene in goals, their defence was manned by Jonas “Paradise” Sello, Samson “Chincha Soweto” Masuku, Danger Moloi, and Mthunzi “Shadow” Kota. In the middle they had the enterprising Mosenthal “Njilo Njilo” Maseko, German “Cutter” Kunene, the late Daniel “Swing Carlie” Masike, and the stylish Irvin “Pepe” Dire. Completing the team was the heading specialist, John “Special” Makhubu, the phenomenally speedy John “Buick” Makwati, and Blessing “killer” Mgidi. 

Later in the year, Swallows Big XV lost 3-1 to Kaizer Chiefs in the semi finals of the Stylo Cup which also featured Pirates and Pubs.

During that time, the game was is turmoil and frantic efforts were now being done to rescue the League, but it was too late. As the controversy raged sponsors pulled out one by one and the matter was finally resolved in 1971, when Sabfa held its biennial congress and Bethuel Morolo was ousted and replaced by George Thabe.

However, says Blessing “killer” Mgidi reflecting on their battles with the NPSL was always at the heart of the problem.
Moroka Swallows Big XV, together with clubs such as kaizer Chief Orlando Pirates, Pretoria Callies, and Witbank Aces realized that if they had to resolve part of their money problems, the NPSL had to be autonomous from Sabfa. As matters stood in 1971, Sabfa’s control over the NPSL was total. The action committee which controlled the NPSL did not have a single representative from the clubs, and this the clubs resented bitterly. As fights between Moroka Swallows Big XV, {supported by other clubs} and the NPSL continued to threaten the stability of the game, it became obvious that the concessions had to be made to the clubs. To placate them Silvester Masinga {Big XV}, and Aggripa Mbathani {Pirates} were appointed to the NPSL management committee {formerly action Committee} in 1973. The clubs had a toehold in the NPSL. This was a sop to the autonomy they were seeking and managed to quieten them for a while.

Of the field, the club was becoming business and in 1971 Moroka Swallows became the first ever soccer team to register as a public company. That same year, it was the first to receive an official sponsorship when Teljoy began its association with the team.

On the filed of play, the NPSL games and competitions were now a contest of supremacy between Moroka Swallows Big XV, Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Zulu Royals, Mangaung United, to mention only a few. The period from 1973-1978 must rank as the golden age for Moroka Swallows Big XV. Swallows on this era, former player, Alfred “KK” Lentsoane says with disarming honesty, could take on giants like Manchester United or AC Milan. Perhaps this is a little exaggerated but it emphasizes the prowess of the club at that period. This was the time when the club’s games against Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates were titanic battles.

Moroka Swallows had won the Ohlssons challenge {1974}, BP Top 16 {1975}, and Champs of Champs 1978.

“The 1975 BP Top 16 final against Kaizer Chiefs was as epic event. It was a tussle of prestige, “says “KK” Lentsoane. “When pros and cons were weighed, Chiefs were tipped to walk it. The game was a two leg final. We played the first leg in Durban, and Jairzinho, one of the greatest players Brazil has ever produced was in the country at the time as a guest player for Chiefs. Most football fans had already written us off in that final. They were terrified and believed that Chiefs, who also had great local stars would tear us apart. You must remember that Chiefs were heavily armed with players such as the late Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, Herman “Pele” Blashcke, Petrus “Ten Ten” Nzimande, Michael “Bizzah” Dlamini, Zacharia “Maria Maria” Lamola, the late Ariel “Pro” Khongoane, and Abednigo “Shaka” Ngcobo. However, Jairzinho was not part of the Chiefs team on the day. He sat that match on the bench, probably to try and assess the Swallows team. Noble “General” Maja, and Andries “Six Mabone” Maseko scored the two goals for us, and Chiefs solitary goal came in the shape of “Shaka” Ngcobo. We had a one goal lead over Chiefs going into the second leg at Orlando Stadium. We went into that game without our coach, Mario Tuani who had to miss the game because of family problems back in Chile. This time, Chiefs had the Brazilian, Jairzhino in the starting line up. I can still remember how Jonas “Paradise” Sello marked him out of the game. That day, both teams pulled out all the stops, but after the final whistle we emerged as 5-3 winners on aggregate to lift the trophy. Our second leg goals came from Ernest Kamba, and a brace from Andries Maseko. This was Swallows at its best. The magic of our players were in full bloom. In goals we had the save hands of the late Welcome “Star Black” Jama, our rearguard consisted of Lazarus “Junior” Nhleko, James “Akulalwa” Mabena, Jonas “Paradise” Sello, and George “Mastermind Kgobe. In the middle, we had our master schemer, Daniel “Vader” Mophosho, Zimbabwean import, Gearge Shaya, Alfred “KK” Letsoane, and Noble “General” Maja. To complete the side, we had Andries “Six Mabone” Maseko, another Zimbabwean import, Ernest Kamba, Edward “Lovemore” Mabaso, and John “Special” Makhubu. What an awesome team, “KK” remembers”

Moment of Sorrow:
One year after clinching the BP Top 16, one of the winning team stalwarts, Lazarus “Junior” Nhleko died tragically in a game against Bantu Callies at Sharpeville stadium after colliding with Bantu Callies striker, Phillip “Chesa” Sibanda. 

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