Hail to the Chief | Ntsoelengoe remembered before Absa Cup final

Patrick (Ace) Ntsoelengoe, 1956-2006. Link to post.


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).

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

Comments (4)

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  1. He’s the first man that I revered as a footballer, together with teenage [Josta] Dladla. He could slow the pace of a game by “walking” with the ball during play. He would always look down, hence opponents would think he could not see around them. Like [Theophilus] “Doctor” Khumalo, he had a trademark smile all the time. Louis Tshakoane once said Brazil had Péle, Argentina had Maradona and we had Ace … modimo wa bolo!

  2. As with Pelé and Maradona and the number 10 jersey globally, in South Africa the number 12 jersey is revered due to the exploits of Ace! I have read about Ace Mgedeza, Ace Skosana, Ace Mnikathi, Ace Mnini; seen Ace Khuse, Ace Mbuthu, Ace Gulwa, Ace Makhaya and Ace Adams. There will always be one Ace … pule Patrick Ace Ntsoelengoe … matatazela … mabhekaphanzi … modimo wa bolo! Such was his ability that every new player with skill at Chiefs is always baptized as the new Ace. Ace has become a yardstick against whom all future footballers will be measured.

  3. Being black and from South Africa denied the world of seeing this truly remarkable player on the global stage that is the World Cup. They would have seen him playing amongst his fellow countrymen who were familiar with his kind of play. Some of the tricks he performed with a ball I couldn’t do but to him they seemed to come naturally as though the ball was actually an extension to his body. I feel privileged to have lived in his lifetime and not read about him as I have with Kalamazoo Mokone, Difference Mbanya, Scara Sono, “Hurry Hurry” Johansson, Percy Moloi, Pro Khumalo, Magwegwe Mokoena, Andy Karajinsky, Frank Mcgrellis, Ryder Mofokeng, Rhee Skosana, Pele Blascke, Shaka Ngcobo and many more.

  4. While many wept the passing on of this icon, I found solace in the belief that Ace has gone to heaven to be in the company of other great footballing names … Bobby Moore, Lev Yashin, Garrincha, Ariel “Pro” Khongoane, Roadblock Makhathini, Elkim “Pro” Khumalo, Moran Samora Khulu, Julius Chirwa, Andy Cencig, Vusi Mcwanga, Lesley “Slow Poison” Manyathela, Marc Vivian Foe, George Best, David “Effort” Chabala, Robert Watyakeni, Godfrey Chitalu, Gift Leremi, Matt Busby, Walter da Silva and Erwitt “The Lip” Nene. With this rich talent having passed on, indeed death is a cruel eventuality.

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