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HomeDStv PremiershipMust See - The Compelling Rise Of Chiefs, Pirates & The PSL

Must See – The Compelling Rise Of Chiefs, Pirates & The PSL

For many South Africans football is the epitome of their weekly activities and life — with excitement, fear and frustration circling around the next game of their favourite team.

The likes of Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, among others, draw massive crowds to the stands every week, when excitement and fulfilment clash with despair.

Nowadays, the DStv Premiership is seen as one of the best football leagues in Africa. But that wasn’t always the case. Just like many average fans, the league had to rise from difficult circumstances and has excelled at being a flag barrier of change and a beacon of a hope in a troubled society.

But many of the South African football stories have not been told; stories of redemption, hope, sorrow, disappointment, fervour, fans and heroes. 

One of the most enthralling of these is how the modern professional game first took root in the 1930s and wound its way through the decades, often in the face of apartheid and its associated horrors, to offer a glorious counterpoint.

This story has finally got its due with the production of “Pulse of a Nation – A South African Football Story”, a four-part documentary that puts a lens on a critical pillar of South Africa’s most popular sport. A story rich in drama, controversy, heroes, pathos, and celebration, the first episode will premiere on SuperSport and Mzansi Magic on September 10.

This is a story of South African football, about many of the events and people who shaped the game. Stories about the likes of Dr. Irvin Khoza, Dr. Kaizer Motaung, Jomo Sono, Shakes Mashaba, the “Magnificent Seven”, George Thabe, Jomo Sono, Lucas “Masterpiece” Moripe and many more are being told with historical footage, much of it rare, in this compelling and startling doc series. 

At its start, it tells the tale of political figure James Mpanza, who pushed the cause of social activism by establishing a boys’ club in Soweto in 1934, which in turn led to the formation of Orlando Pirates three years later.

Apartheid’s degradations are a constant theme of the documentary, but as the reviled system took hold, so did the football establishment, which offered hope and happiness parallel to politics.

There are several welcome voices that add to the heady brew, including former Santos striker Duncan Crowie, who talks of the injustices of the ruling regime at the time, and of the decision by some Cape clubs not to join the National Soccer League.

Others who talk to camera are stalwarts like Khoza, Motaung, Mme Moipone Moorosi (the Iron Lady of Orlando Pirates), Mashaba and Imtiaz Patel.

Pulse of a Nation looks at the players with colourful nicknames like “Ace”, “Pro”, “Troublemaker” and “Roadblock”, who became folk heroes with their flamboyant play, all while demonstrating the virtues of a people who had been denigrated and denied by the government of the day.

The creation of Kaizer Chiefs in the early 1970s, by a Pirates’ stalwart in the form of Motaung no less, gets its due treatment, so too the fairy tale of Manning Rangers’ unlikely title triumph.

But also, the darkest day in SA football is also brought into sharp focus as the events of April 2001, when 43 fans were crushed to death at a game at Ellis Park, is re-told. Even now, all these years later, the visuals are chilling.

As an African story, the timeless tradition of oral storytelling became an element that had to be included. The storyteller thus had to have lived experience with the world of football. Prominent actor Sello Maake KaNcube is no stranger to this world – his father Joseph “Skehla” Ncube was an Orlando Pirates goalkeeper, and his finely-honed dramatic craft meant he was a natural fit. KaNcube narrates the series and gives it the gravitas it deserves.

“My spirit was warmed [by the project],” he said. “The history of South African football has hasn’t really been captured in its essence. This approach . . . I love how it was captured. Truly, South African football is the Pulse of the Nation. As young people growing up, we knew no other sport.

“It is so important that we tell stories even while using our own languages. It is said that when you speak to a man in his own language, you are speaking to his heart.”

Pulse of a Nation is a work of tremendous cultural significance; stories that speak to several generations at once and an artefact of what football means to South Africans.

Film director Luthando Tshaya speaks movingly of the project: “I have always heard the story of South African football told in fragments and in isolation. It has been the privilege of my career to be 

given the responsibility of being part of the team that finally brings this narrative to life.

Too often, in early development, Tshaya and his colleagues were told the project was unachievable. There apparently existed too little record of the game in written word, archive footage or photography. 

With the strength of the SuperSport brand in support, they were able to uncover long-forgotten archives and draw from new sources.

The documentarians visited the seminal places that birthed South African football stories and

reached out to the furthest corners of South Africa to show the game’s pervading influence.

This, finally, is the long overdue story of how local football came to be the Pulse of a Nation.

Ep.1 Sunday, 10th September at 20:00pm – SS PSL
Ep.2 Sunday, 17th September at 20:00pm – SS PSL
Ep.3 Sunday, 24th September at 20:00pm – SS PSL
Ep.4 Sunday, 1st October at 20:00 pm – SS PSL
Ep.1 Sunday, 10th September at 21:30pm
Ep.2 Sunday, 17th September at 21:30pm
Ep.3 Sunday, 24th September at 21:30pm
Ep.4 Sunday, 1st October at 21:30pm
David Kappel
David Kappel
David Kappel has served as a renowned international editor and content manager for almost a decade. David specialises in ensuring content and social media posts are highly engaging for football fans and was previously the international editor at Soccer Laduma. He is currently the iDiski Times website editor and social strategist.