'My first salary was R150' - Downs legend


Mamelodi Sundowns legend Charles Motlohi takes us back in today's Throwback Thursday feature in which he discusses how underpaid he was for his entire career.

Before his big move to Sundowns – where Motlohi was infamously slapped across the face by Daniel Mudau back in 2001 – he played for teams such as Welkom Eagles and Bloemfontein Celtic.

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"I turned professional at the age of 16 playing with the likes of Jerry Sikhosana," Motlohi tells KickOff.com.

"My big break came at a time when I had given up on football. I was focused more on being a church choir boy. I even had a girlfriend at church. That's where Welkom Eagles found me.

"When my girlfriend dumped me I decided to return to football full-time. She cheated with one of the church members.

"The first time I received R8 000 was in the national squad. My salary was R150 at Celtic in 1996, in 1997 it became R160, and it ended up being R1 500. Because of the love of football, I was just happy to see myself on TV."

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He explains how his move to Sundowns came about in the late 1990s.

"I was supposed to join Pirates. I met Irvin Khoza, Jomo [Sono] was still involved there at Pirates as well, I don't know if he was a co-owner there or what because then it was him who recommended players to Khoza.

"But when I returned from that meeting the following day I met Ted [Dumitru] at a hotel in Bloemfontein, only to find out he specially came to see me. Those days Sundowns had the likes of [Augustine] Makalakalane, Linda Buthelezi... I asked myself, 'Where am I going to play there?'

"Because they had only top dogs there then, Page Mahlangu... then I thought to myself, 'No, at Pirates it's the officials who want me whereas at Sundowns it's the coach.' That's how I ended up at Sundowns. I joined because of Ted Dumitru.

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"You know I used to swear at Sundowns players when I was still at Celtic every time we played them because they used to kick me a lot. So I asked myself, 'How are these guys going to treat me there after all that has happened?'

"But to my surprise the guys gave me a very warm welcome. But let me tell you about professional football... they will only treat you well if you've got something. But if you are a chancer... remember by then Sundowns had a very strong team.

"Those days the signing-on fees were like R40 000, R50 000, but as for a monthly salary I retired from playing football earning R6 500. I don't recall seeing myself earning R20 000. That's what I used to earn at Sundowns.

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"But when I read the likes of Kick Off and Soccer Laduma now, I discover that the players I used to play with at that time were getting R40 000! I ask myself, 'Hey, after playing so well, I was only paid R6 000?' I had no agent or union in those days.

"Today I would be a millionaire if I was still playing. There were times where we would win 14 games in a row... remember how much was our win bonus then. It was R500 per win. For a draw we would get nothing.

"That R500 you would get at the end of the month. By the time I left, that's when [Patrice] Motsepe came in. A bonus for a win was R2 000. Just imagine today's signing-on fee? I would be a multi-millionaire."

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To put food on the table, these days the 49-year-old is involved in a few projects in his home town of Welkom.

"You know there's this programme of Footballers 4 Life, I was there educating offenders, communities, talking about the mistakes we made," he says.

"But at the moment I'm busy with tenders. I've got my own company. I have even built a tar road. But currently it's bad on my side man because of this corona thing yassis! At the moment our hope lies on Level 3 [of lockdown]."

Motlohi says before joining Sundowns his favourite clubs were Chiefs and Celtic, but he doesn't hide his special love for Phunya Sele Sele.

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"I only loved Celtic because of Mr Molemela [Petrus]. We enjoyed a great relationship," he adds.

"I even stayed at his house on Sundays analysing games, finishing my coach. I would tell him, 'Hey, this coach Ntate Molemela makes us run. We can't tell if we are still soccer players or what, we are always running!'

"You will hear Molemela once he gets to the gym, 'Hey coach! Hayi man, hayi khona! Let these boys kick the ball man! But now I'm a Sandawana man, for life."

More pics of Motlohi today and in action in the 2001 BP Top 8 below