Dr. Khoza pays tribute to 'Bra Pine'
Saturday June 24 2006
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) and South African Football Associatrion (SAFA) Vice-President Dr. Irvin Khoza, pays tribute to former 'Beautiful Birds' Chairman Mr. David 'Pine' Chabeli.
Members of the Chabeli family, colleagues in the South African football family, friends, we have gathered to pay honour to a man who contributed so much to soccer.
We have come here today to bid farewell to the man who made The Birds fly. Most of us knew him as Bra Pine.
Those of us who met him in the 1960s in Alexandra also knew him as Spartan and Caborro Bassa. He earned those names playing draughts, where he was a skilful competitor.
Benjamin Franklin, a great man who helped write the United States Declaration of Independence, once said: "Draughts is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions".
I know Bra Pine agreed with him& and I know Bra Pine was living proof that Franklins assessment is correct.
His car would be parked at the Marabi Hotel in Phomolong until the wee hours of the morning. At all times with a litre of milk beside him. He looked after his health and would share the nutrition and exercise sermon to all around him. He put the saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away to literal use. The ill health in his later years did not deter his disciplined gym regime.
Faces pop up in my mind as I remember those days - Bra Rally, Bra Danger, Bra Mari and Bra Majake from Dube and Alexandra respectively. They where avid draught players around which Bra Pines Soweto versus Alexandra Draught Tournament was anchored. Uphi uMari that was a draught genius if ever there was one. How can one forget Danger Godlo. Bra Pine put a lot of resources and effort into draught always emphasising the importance of the mental exercise people get out of mind games. He talked about mental strength long before psychologists got involved with sport. Today it is common cause. There is no denying that he was way ahead of his time.
Bra Pine played draughts well, and Bra Pine lived well.
He was a great pioneer and, under his deeply committed leadership, he ensured Moroka Swallows were pioneers as well.
The Beautiful Birds were pioneers in 1954, when they launched the first Supporters Club in South African soccer.
They were pioneers again in 1958 when, after years playing against Orlando Pirates in competitive soccer, they agreed to join the SASL.
They were pioneers again in 1971, when Swallows became the first soccer team ever to register as a public company.
That same year, they became the first South African team to secure a sponsor, when they started an association with Teljoy.
They were pioneers in 1985, when the lead sponsor attached a condition for their support for the formation of the NSL. The condition was that Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows be part of the new league. It was David Chabeli who convinced his board to support the new initiative. The meetings were convened at his home and it was touch and go, but bra Pine came back with it.
These were all great steps. They were brave steps, and Bra Pine was the man with the vision and courage to make them.
In 1978, he made a special effort to travel to Argentina and watch the FIFA World Cup. It is profoundly sad that he will not be sitting in the stands when the tournament comes to his country in 2010. His presence will be missed at that great feast.
Yes, beyond doubt, this man was a true pioneer.
He was also amazingly humble.
Bra Pine repeatedly declined invitations to join the Executive structures of both the league and the natonal body.
Why? we used to ask him.
Let someone else have a chance, he always replied.
So, the likes of Godfrey Goxwa, Sam Maja, Bra Abe Mashele and Nthate Tjale emerged to represent Swallows, and make major contributions to our game.
Friends, when I think of Bra Pine, I think of a hippopotamus.
He was a big personality, as the hippo is big, but he was content to keep most of his achievements submerged, out of sight, just as the hippo remains in the water, his bulk hidden.
Hippos can remain safely underwater, and be able to breathe, and hear and see the world around them without exposing their bodies. In the same way, Bra Pine did not have to blow his own trumpet, or dominate the headlines, to reflect his great deeds.
Furthermore, although the hippopotamus is suprisingly quick and flexible, it has a tendency to develop set patterns. When they leave the water at dusk, for example, they prefer to follow the same path, often leaving a rut in the ground several feet deep.
This was Bra Pines way as well.
He always moved with the times, but, from those early days in Alex, he was a man who knew right from wrong. And, as time passed, he knew what was right for the Birds, and held his course.
He has, beyond doubt, left deep tracks at Moroka Swallows.
It was this rock solid reliability that endeared Bra Pine to so many generations of Swallows players. He said what he meant, and he never promised what he would not be able to deliver.
So, Bra Pine was a pioneer, and he was humble. He was also a true sportsman. If another team played well, or an opposing player did well, he was the first to offer his enthusiastic congratulations.
He respected the game. This was not a club chairman who blamed the referee, or cursed bad luck. If Swallows lost, it was enough for him to encourage his officials and players to work harder.
He was also an encyclopaedia of knowledge. He could vividly recall all the great games and great players who have illuminated South Afriican soccer over the past 50 years. Ask him any question about the game and we did! Bra Pine always had the answer.
Friends, he also knew the game inside out. I remember many times when he told me about a young player who he had spotted in the townships, and about how they would become stars.
As a club administrator myself I have to say that it was quiet laudable how he dealt with players and their issues. This man has put a lot of his personal money into the development of others. He had an eye for talent. The assembly of players he had succeeded in putting together over the years gave Swallows it pomp and acclaim.
Andries Six Mabone Panyaza Maseko; Aubrey The Great Makgopela; Marks Maponyane the list goes on. Bra Pine is an integral part of the display, joy and entertainment that all these great players provided to the football loving people of South Africa.
This brings me to an important point that has become a pet subject of mine. There is a common truth that the passing of an old man to a community has the effect of a library burning down. When that old man is of the stature and wisdom of David Chabeli then an equivalent of a city library has burnt down.
For all those who remember the big V jersey, Bra Pine kept them till today. So the challenge for us as a nation is to begin to document the lives of those who touched us. Capture their wisdom.
For those with no history have a future that is ignorant of their past and are therefore bound to make the same mistakes of their forefathers whilst failing to capitalise on their gains.
Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa will miss him.
Swallows will miss him dearly, because he takes to the grave a substantial chunk of the clubs long and distinguished history. It is so sad that he will not be able to participate when the Birds celebrate their 60th anniversary next year.
And I will miss him greatly. He was a soccer man through and through. When I last went to visit him he was not well. Yet he was watching football on his giant television screen.
That was not all. Before I left he called me to his garage and said Mfanagithi, e tla o bone. He showed me his immaculate car. He even opened the front for me to see the engine. He was beyond clean - he was neat.
That is when your cleanliness is characterised by orderliness. His neatness did not stop at his car. When overseas he bought and updated his collection of Flosheim and crocodile shoes. It also permeated through all of his dealings.
This man lying here today was rock solid - devoid of emotional instabilities - honourable in every respect. But I have seen him overwhelmed. It was not by some strongman tough situation in football. Actually it had nothing to do with football. It was close and personal. It was by the pride he felt because of his daughter Dollys success.
Whether he spoke about Dolly coming tops in KZN; or taking a lecturing post at University of Westville or joining a top law firm Shapston and Wyllie in a field of law foreign to black people, acquisition and mergers, maritime law until today he would glow in a way evident that what he felt imshaya ngaphakathi. He was proud of his girls.
To you Nthabiseng; Dolly and Matshepo be strong for sisEdith. The immediate and extended families have lost one they loved very dearly; a husband, father, brother and relative in other forms. Their bereavement begets pain of a character, only they are capable of feeling.
As in the case of many other people of different affiliations, creeds and ethnicity, Bra Pine was a friend and a colleague in the sphere for which he harboured an unshakable passion: soccer.
As I extend to the bereaved the consolation of the football segment of South African society, I let it be known in the same breath that their grief, even though not entirely in the same extent, we share in their grief.
Edith, we who remain continue to respect and honour you.
To Dolly and the other children, you have lost your father last week, but you will never lose his example. Your father always spoke of you with such tremendous love and pride, and, as I look at you today, I think of an old saying from West Africa.
In Senegal, there is a saying that&
What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him or her to learn. Your father taught you to love, so do exactly that.
You have lost a father, Edith has lost a husband and many of us have lost a dear friend this is a sad time for everybody but I do believe each and every one of us must try& not be sad that he has gone, but to be glad that Bra Pine has lived.
South African soccer is on the brink of the most exciting period in our history, as we prepare to host the World Cup in 2010.
We have reached this stage due to the efforts of several great men who developed our game in the most difficult circumstances, with no prospect of personal reward& just for the game.
David Chabeli was one of these men.
Rest in Peace, 'Bra Pine'.
* Tribute courtesy of the official Orlando Pirates website:
*Image courtesy of ex-Swallows player, Walter Mabeba