Exclusive By Nick Harris
26 December 2009
The VIP guest list for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will include a pioneering player who played for Coventry City, Cardiff and Barnsley among many stops in a colourful, controversial career that has also included fierce criticism of his native South African FA.
Steve Mokone was the first black South African footballer to be allowed to play professionally outside his country when he emigrated from the apartheid regime of the 1950s to join Coventry. He faced prejudice and persecution at multiple clubs but was a prolific, ground-breaking striker who won honours with Heracles in the Netherlands and was also attached, albeit briefly, to Barcelona, Torino and others.
Mokone, now 71 and resident in America, has had a turbulent life; after his playing days were over, he served an eight-year jail sentence after being convicted of an attack on his wife. He always maintained his innocence and the Dutch investigative journalist Tom Egbers wrote a book on the case, ‘Twelve Stolen Years’, that suggested Mokone was framed: as an ANC activist in 1970s America, Mokone was considered a security threat.
Mokone has been awarded numerous honours for his humanitarian and charity work, and for his ground-breaking feats in football. In November 2009, Mokone was one of five people to receive a lifetime achievement honour from the SAFA.
Despite Mokone having spoken in the past about alleged corruption within the SAFA, the organisation’s current president, Kirsten Nematandani, has told sportingintelligence.com: “The World Cup is still some six months away and our guest lists have yet to be finalised. But all the legends of South African football will be invited, and Mokone is a legend of South African football.”