The Soweto-based giants of South African football, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, meet Saturday in the Absa Cup final. The sides face each other in a cup championship for the first time in 18 years. Despite the controversial location in the Kings Park rugby stadium here, 43,000 tickets were gone within minutes of going on sale. In addition to the other subplots that are part of the historic rivalry, Chiefs will take the field with the memory of Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe in mind. The former midfielder and 50-year-old coach of the Chiefs’ under-15 team was found dead in his car on May 8. He was eulogized May 14 before 3,000 in Krugersdorp, the sound of vuvuzelas piercing the air as well as cries of “A-a-a-ce.”
For his 11 seasons and 87 goals in the North American Soccer League, primarily for Minnesota and Toronto, Ntsoelengoe (pronounced net-so-len-gy) in 2003 was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame. In an obituary in the New York Times, former Toronto Blizzard president Clive Toye recalled Ntsoelengoe as “a very quiet, gentle man. The only time I ever heard him complain was when the apartheid government of South Africa declared his part of the country a separate nation called Bophuthatswana (he was a Tswana) and took away his South African passport.”
For additional background, see the essay by South Africa native Tony Karon, “Hamba Kahle, Ace Ntsoelengoe” (May 9).