I spotted Phil Masinga at Khuma township in Stilfontein, where he was playing for a mine team. Mine soccer was quite big those days because the mines used to pay players a lot of money to play for their teams. I was invited to go and scout a particular player, but I ended up seeing this skinny young boy playing.
I said: “I’d like to have this skinny young boy.”
The people who had invited me said: “No, you are crazy.”
They wanted to force me to have a look at the player who they wanted me to sign, but I wanted Phil Masinga and that was that.
After the game, I took him to his home, where I spoke to his elders and they gladly agreed to let me take him. I drove back with him and put him up in my house. He started training with Cosmos the following day.
I told him that he had to go to school and that we would try to organise a school for him to go to.
It took him about five months to settle at Cosmos. He had talent and he had the ability to play football. I knew he was going to make it. He was surrounded by good players.
Mainly it was players who were tall, who were only good in the air with their heads. Masinga was fortunate because he had both – he could play on the ground and was really good when it came to heading the ball.
Being surrounded by good players such as Augustine Makalakalane, Thomas Madigage, Lawrence “Sister Monica” Siyangaphi and myself – I was still playing – made it easy for him to settle down.
Chippa was a quiet young boy, but he was short-tempered. He just wanted to play football. He suffered from an inferiority complex because he was from a township outside a mining town.
Some said: “Ubuya e-mine lo (This one is from a mine).”
“I was as proud as any father would be because every Cosmos player is always like a son to me and I’m their father. I am also a friend to them. When Masinga went overseas, I knew he would make it because he was dedicated.”
He had a problem with people who mentioned his background; he’d fight you if you did.
My coach-player relationship with Masinga was good. I was a good player manager. To my players, I was not only a coach, I was a father and a friend. I never had any problem with him regarding discipline, and that extended to my relationship with the rest of my players.
The hat-trick he scored against Kaizer Chiefs in a cup final in 1991 was one of those games where he scored like a madman; I will never forget it.
That time, football was run by Abdul Bhamjee, who was the god of soccer. He was the most powerful administrator in the country and was quite flamboyant.
We didn’t deserve to lose that game to Chiefs, but as you know, our football was controlled by this one man. Chippa was scoring goals all the way in this tournament. He was the top goal scorer in the tournament. He scored a hat-trick in the finals, even though we lost 4-3.
Immediately after the tournament, Bhamjee went to the mike and announced Fani Madida as the Player of the Tournament. The press asked me about the injustice and I said it was because Bhamjee was a crook.
If he was a boxer, he would have fought in the mosquito weight. His legs were like toothpicks. I said to him: “Go and shut those people up; go and score.” And indeed he scored
Madida had scored a goal or two and he became the Player of the Tournament? Chippa was a leading goal scorer in the tournament, how could he not be the Player of the Tournament?
I wanted to know if Bhamjee was a judge for the title and discovered that he wasn’t. He had just decided on his own and he was a crook.
The judges came out saying they had not voted for Madida, they had unanimously voted for Masinga.
Phil ended up sharing the prize with Madida.
Masinga’s first game with Cosmos was against Orlando Pirates. Skinny as he was, he came on in the second half when the score was 0-0. As soon as he took off his tracksuit pants, Pirates fans laughed at him because he was so scrawny.
If he was a boxer, he would have fought in the mosquito weight. His legs were like toothpicks. I said to him: “Go and shut those people up; go and score.” And indeed he scored, and we beat Pirates 1-0.
When we sold him to Sundowns, we had no option but to let him go. Our hands were tied because Sundowns was financially strong and we were not. Cosmos has never been strong financially. We sold players to survive.
When Sundowns sold him to Leeds United in the UK, we retained a certain portion of the transfer fee because every time I sold a player to a local club, Cosmos retained between 30% and 50%, so that when he was sold overseas we would get our share.
I was as proud as any father would be because every Cosmos player is always like a son to me and I’m their father. I am also a friend to them. When Masinga went overseas, I knew he would make it because he was dedicated.
He had it all when he went to play overseas; he had everything that a footballer needs. He had a good coach, which was a big advantage.
The way we trained at Cosmos was different from the way they trained. I was always in contact with Chippa; we always spoke on the phone, even when he was overseas.
When he came back, he’d visit me. He even named one of his children after my daughter, Nyiko. We were always close, even at the national team level when he played for Bafana Bafana.
I will forever miss you my dear son!
Etlela hiku rhula!
Sono is the owner of Jomo Cosmos FC.
-STORY CREDITS: CITY PRESS