Throwback Thursday: William Shongwe

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In our Soweto Derby build-up, William Shongwe reveals how the late Jeff Butler helped organised his move to arch-rivals Orlando Pirates.

The Eswatini-born former goalkeeper is one of the few players who are fortunate to have represented both Soweto giants in his football career, something that is always viewed as betrayal by the two teams' supporters.

Now a long-serving analyst for SuperSport TV, 'Cool Cat' or 'Rubber Man' as Shongwe was known in his heyday explains what led him to sleeping with the enemy.

"In my case what happened is when the new coach arrived [Wiseman] Mbale at Kaizer Chiefs he had his own foreign players he wanted to bring in," Shongwe tells KickOff.com.

"He had Eshele Botende, and he had another striker... that's why those two signings affected myself and Scara Thindwa. And at the time Pirates were doing badly and Geoff Hudson was the coach.

"I picked up later that Geoff being from England he was closer to Jeff Butler and they were communicating. Butler advised him saying 'Chiefs have just let go of a good goalkeeper that I worked with at Kaizer Chiefs, bring him across, I'm sure he can help you'.

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"So I mean it was just an amazing way that it happened, but obviously there was still the pressure and the challenge of having to cross directly over. I mean I've never thought I would be able to wear the black and white [laughs], and the rivalry obviously, as much as players don't show it but you know the supporters can feel it between yourselves, even when you don't intend to create it but the supporters will make you feel that 'you know what, you are on the opposite fence of this whole thing'.

"So imagine now having to cross to the very fans that I have never wanted to be on [laughs], and that was high pressure... I guess what helped in our part is Pirates were doing badly at the time and so, as much as the people at Pirates weren't too sure about my case, they needed something that can help them.

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"But there was this guy called Nyawana, he was a great Pirates fan, he is late now, may his soul rest in peace. He was the one out of all the Pirates supporters who had my back. He told me 'don't worry all the supporters they will be behind you, I've always told you that one day you will be playing for Orlando Pirates, now go do your thing'. Ah! Do you know what difference that made?

"Yeah, that is how my move came about, and I remember we went something like 17 games unbeaten when I joined. So I had a very good, soft landing at Orlando Pirates. I revived my career to a situation whereby I was back in the same old form that I was in at Kaizer Chiefs."

Shongwe says his experience of facing Amakhosi in a Soweto Derby was the one to forget.

"Eish, I'm telling you my first experience of facing Kaizer Chiefs was the worst one, it was the most painful game that I went through. It was the Coca-Cola Cup quarterfinal at FNB Stadium. We were riding on a very high wave as Orlando Pirates at the time, we were back, we were beating everybody, we'd just won the Castle Challenge Cup you know. This was after four years Pirates were without a cup.

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"We were playing Chiefs in the quarterfinals, the stadium was packed to capacity and we scored the first goal, we scored the second one early in the second half, Tshepo Ntsoane scored the first one from a set-piece and David Nyathi scored the second one, all was looking bright and then... Albert Bwalya scored the first one, 2-1. Then the game finishes its 90 minutes... and then they get a penalty... I think it was the 96th minute, I don't know where [referee] Stan Swart got those additional minutes from.

"And it's a penalty that was not, it's a ball that hit Bernard Lushozi on the shoulder and he pointed to the spot. Oh man! I tell you I was so angry... then I talked to Ronnie Zondi, in fact I was screaming and shouting like everybody else that this is not a penalty. And Ronnie Zondi turned around and said, 'Hawu! What are you jumping on about? This is how you've always beat us in the past. You've always got these dubious penalties [laughs] so we are used to this.'

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"Imagine. Okay, they went on to score the second one and then we went into extra time and I think [Fani] Madida scored the third to make it 3-2. After the penalty the spirit was gone, the fighting you know, the strength and the aggression that you saw in the beginning was gone completely from the players, I couldn't believe it. Oh boy I was hurt, I was hurt that weekend."

What sets the two teams apart?

"You know what, I think the one thing that Kaizer has always prided himself on was the organisation the team had. You know there's just a high level of professionalism, I mean already they'd moved to Naturena when I went across. But Naturena was still being built into what it is today," Shongwe says.

"So definitely there was a gap in the management style, but Dr Khoza had just taken over Orlando Pirates, in fact I was one of the first signings of Dr Khoza, then I remember David Nyathi came, Tshepo Ntsoane came, Eugene Zwane came and then the following year the flood of Jomo Cosmos players followed. Dr Khoza's arrival transformed the structure at Orlando Pirates."

The crossing of players between the two sides is continuing even today, even though most of them don't join directly, but once they are there they struggle to emulate the form they showed while playing for the other team.

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Lehlohonolo Majoro, Stanton Fredericks, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Brilliant Khuzwayo and Siphelele Mthembu all struggled after moving in the opposite direction, with the exception of Jimmy Tau. Shongwe believes this is due to the pressure.

"I think it's the pressure that comes along and the expectations. You know when you are with Pirates, Chiefs you settle as a star, then having to cross over you still have to prove yourself that you are just as good."

The two giants face each again this weekend in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinals, a game Shongwe says Amakhosi will win.

"As for goals let's leave that one to fate. Kaizer Chiefs are on a high. Honestly I didn't expect them to beat Sundowns in the way that they did. This could be the game that helps Orlando Pirates turn the tide, but Kaizer Chiefs will go ahead, they will win it."

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