The going was tough in those early years...
According to Carlton Moloi, an outstanding striker for that early Swallows team, the going was tough. Moloi says that those early Swallows players scored their goals with bare feet and it was only when a sympathetic club, the Zulu Messengers, took pity on them and lent them boots that they were properly equipped.
"But the Zulu Messengers would leave us stranded every time they had to play against us," recalls Moloi. "Yes, today Swallows players drive snazzy cars to get to their matches, but things were tough in our days. We used to walk to Jabavu Stadium for our games, or at times we would travel to games on the back of a bakkie."
Our players were kidnapped...
"We had plenty of rough times," said Essau ‘Inch’ Madi, who played left half at Moroka Swallows during those early days.
"When we began to trounce some of the senior clubs, people became jealous and even kidnapped some of our players before matches. We had to play several matches with some of our best men locked up for the weekend in some malicious man’s house!"
"But these early setbacks only solidified the young team and they refused to buckle under the pressure of rival clubs who were being shown up by these young upstarts.
On Saturdays we were Rovers, on Sundays we were Swallows...
"In 1953 most of the youngsters playing for Swallows left school and started working for Amalgamated Packing Industries."
Madi picks up the story, "Eight of us joined the firm, and they agreed to help us with equipment for
Swallows if we played for their work team. So we decided to form a team called ‘Corrugated Rovers."
"We didn't break away from Swallows, we just played on Saturdays at the Bantu Sports Grounds under the name 'Rovers', and on Sundays in Soweto as Swallows."
A major triumph!
Playing in two different leagues suited Swallows very well, because in 1953 they scored a major triumph by becoming the Johannesburg African Football Association (JAFA) League Champions! What was so special about that 1953 team? Looking back on their triumphs, former greats 'Carlton' Moloi, 'Shakes' Moloi, 'Inch By Inch' Madi and 'Rhee' Mbanya said they they had a tenacious team, arrogant in defence, and creative in every position.
"We had strength in every department, and that was the key," said Madi and the other veterans
nod their heads. "We had proven goal-scorers, and even players in other positions could score goals as well."
Swallows take the Robinson Cup!
The following year in 1954, Swallows won the Robinson Cup. Stars who were paraded by Swallows in those days included the likes of Joe 'Buick' Manana, David 'Stadig' Mahlangu, Jeremiah 'Ntsimbi' Gumede, Difference and Lawrence Mbanya, Essau 'Inch by Inch' Madi, Paulos 'Bobby Locke' Khausele, Samuel 'Aarah' Gumede, the three Moloi brothers, Ismael, Phillip and Carlton, and the acrobatic Abraham 'Al Die Hoekies' Meyers between the poles.
Durban Bush Bucks defeated!
By 1955 Moroka Swallows were starting to make waves and began to challenge the South African football hierarchy. Former Swallows great Rhee Mbanya explains, "By 1955 we were ready to face crack teams like Durban Bush Bucks. We beat them 1-0 and after the game they told us it was their first defeat in five years!
"It was a massive victory as Bush Bucks were considered almost unbeatable, boasting some fabulous
players. It seemed silly that Swallows, then almost unknown, should take on the mighty Bucks and
win! We proved our worth again when we met them for a second time that year and drew 5-5.
"After this, Swallows were made. Crack players in our club soon became draw cards for thousands of
A loyal supporter through thick and thin
They don't come any more loyal than Gendis Montoedi, the self-proclaimed Moroka Swallows number one supporter.
Having joined Swallows in the turbulent 1950s, he has seen players and coaches come and go. "During those early years, Swallows were arguably, player-for-player, the most talented side in South Africa.
"Thousands of fans would turn up to see Swallows play, and would bet not on whether they would win, but by how many goals. We had the greatest team in the country, and together with Orlando Pirates dominated
the soccer scene."
Pirates are beaten!
"Orlando Pirates dominated South African soccer when we first arrived on the scene, but with the formation of Moroka Swallows, the domination of local soccer had to be shared two ways," boasts Moroka Swallows' founding father Strike Makgatho.
"In 1956 Swallows clinched the Transvaal Challenge trophy after beating the formidable Orlando Pirates team 6-5. In those days, Pirates boasted big stars and played impressive soccer.
"It required a lot of bravery to halt their success at that particular moment. We boasted a team brimming with exciting skills and talent, and Pirates were full of spirit and character. Only a brave man would have ventured to predict a winner before that final for the Transvaal Challenge trophy.
"It was the brilliance of Pirates' individual talents like James 'Hitler' Sobi, Isaac 'Rocks' Mothei, Simon 'Baboon' Shabangu and 'Buick' Buthelezi against our teamwork.
"The duel began at a fast pace, with both sides opening each other up, and the ball moving freely from one end of the field to the other with goals aplenty. In the end, skill was the telling factor as we
won 6-5 and made off with the Transvaal Challenge spoils," says a proud Strike Makgatho.
Remembering the first 10 years...
The surviving members of the Moroka Swallows FC team that played in those early years cherish fond memories. They remember long walks in the dusty streets of Moroka Jabavu. They recall that at a time when boys from one township were not welcome in another township and the clashes that ensued were often violent, they chose instead to play football.
Strike Makgatho puts it best when he says, "There was a symbolic relationship between all of us, and
stories of specific matches in which deceased giants of Moroka Swallows FC participated deserve to be well documented.
"May their souls rest in peace."