Tshepo Motsoeneng: How the ambitious coach inspired Bizana Pondo Chiefs

Tshepo Motsoeneng, the Bizana Pondo Chiefs coach, has recovered from the heartbreak. The heartbreak – let’s add ‘s’ at the end for plural for he has suffered many hard times – have made him stronger.

Over a week ago, he guided a little known club from a town many have vaguely heard about from the Eastern Cape to GladAfrica Championship. Bizana is the home of the longest-serving ANC President, OR Tambo. It is also home to Winnie Nomzamo Mandela.

But in the football map, the town has no footprints. It had no history of producing professional teams. It had no history of producing professional players. It has always played second cousin to its neighbouring town, Matatiele that has produced a number of stars including Andile Jali, Siyabonga Siphika, Anele Zibi and many others.

But the town of Bizana has now graduated and earned a seat amongst South Africa’s 31 football royals in the Premier Soccer League.

And they have, chiefly, Tshepo Motsoeneng to thank for this. When Motsoeneng boarded a flight to the Eastern Cape towards the end of last year, Bizana Pondo Chiefs had just been handed a heavy 6-2 defeat in the ABC Motsepe League.

They were lying mid-table and only those with faith that moves mountain could have punted them to emerge as champions in their province.

But the man who had previously transformed the fortunes of many teams in the same League had a plan. The ABC Motsepe League was familiar territory for him. After all, he had guided Tornado FC from Mdantsane to back-to-back titles.

But he couldn’t convert provincial dominance into a spot in the country’s second biggest league.

Having endured the heartbreak of failing to promote his club to the GladAfrica Championship, another tragedy hit Motsoeneng when Tornado FC boss – popularly known as Mawawa – was gunned down outside a stadium in East London. This put an end to his dream to promote Tornardo and the man was out in the wilderness again.

“This was a very difficult period for me. Mawawa (Tornado owner) had taken a gamble on me and showed faith in me. And I had won the league for him but I wanted to promote the club. Now I was heartbroken, twice. It hurt me then. It hurts me today.”