Throwback Thursday: Joseph Ngake


Joseph Ngake is a former Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town winger who represented Bafana Bafana six times. caught up with the man himself to talk about his career and what he's up to now.

"I think I retired at the end of 2009. I think it was about time to retire," Ngake said.

"But to be exact, I was supposed to go back to Vietnam. I was playing there so I was supposed to go back there for a second season. But then another offer came, I think I was 34."

Ngake explains how he got to play for Pirates.

"We were playing inter-varsity games you see. I was supposed to go to Jomo Cosmos from Moroka Swallows because I started at Swallows in 1996, and then in 1997 I was supposed to join Cosmos. On the day I was supposed to sign my sister's boyfriend Sipho Nhlengezela who managed Swallows came with Irvin [Khoza] one morning. Bra Irvin did not request me, he instructed that when I come back from school I must go to Pirates training.

"My father asked me what was important to me, was it money or what? I said money. Immediately after school there was a bus waiting for me at the school gate. Apparently after 40 minutes to an hour Cosmos came looking for me, but I had already left. I ended up signing with Pirates. It took me about a week for them to sign me.

"I went straight to the senior team. When I got there I found the likes of Marks Maponyane, Shoes Lushozi, remember the team that had just won in Africa? Bondas [Viktor Bondarenko] was the coach when I got there. After they introduced me to the team as a striker Innocent Mncwango said, 'Hey Marks, this boy says you play s*** that's why he is here for trials[laughs].' But I knew he was joking and everybody laughed.

"When I got there they were playing a friendly game, I was playing with those who were always on the bench and I impressed. Brandon Silent motivated me a lot, even Marks Maponyane and John Moeti. It was not easy to break into the Pirates team then my brother because the players also had a say. They would say 'this one akekho mnandi [is not good]'. They had a little influence on who should be signed, because they were a team.

"I enjoyed my stay at Pirates but I enjoyed my football at Ajax. At Ajax my brother I was given a free role... attack, attack, attack! This thing of going up and down did not really exist the time I was at Ajax. But my best game was against Sundowns in Durban, we were about to host the World Cup and the FIFA delegation was here in Mzansi. That game ended 3-3, I even scored just after jumping the halfway line."

What was the most he earned as a player?

"The only thing I can say is that whatever I got wherever I went... was not enough. But I could live with that salary because I believe it's not how much you earn but how you use it. If maybe I would still be playing today for example, let's say if I was earning today R60 000 for three years, I wouldn't be bankrupt after I retired. I knew how to use money you see. It's like when you get R100 000 or above today and after retirement you become bankrupt?

"Us, to be honest my bra, we were not earning enough but we had the love for the game. Me, what I did, I schooled myself and my little sister, that's where my money went basically and I would also feed myself and my family there."

These days Ngake works as a school teacher in Soweto to put food on the table.

"I'm a deputy principal. That's what I'm doing and I enjoy it very much. It's Khulanolwazi Primary School based in Braamfischerville in an informal settlement somewhere just after Dobsonville, in Soweto.

"The learners understand exactly who I am, some even ask me, 'My dad says you used to play for Pirates.' And I tell them yes it's true I used to play for Pirates but I didn't forget my books. So don't forget your books as well.

"I got married 12 years ago and I've got three children in marriage. I'm staying here in Johannesburg in some suburb. You see me, I have never regarded myself as a celebrity. I don't want any special treatment wherever I go. Sometimes I attend funerals and stand in the line for a plate of food like everybody else. Be grounded and people will respect you."