Steve Mokone, the first black South African to play professional football in Europe, has passed away at the age of 82, his family has confirmed. Known as “Kalamazoo”, the former Coventry City , Heracles, Cardiff, Barcelona, Marseille and Torino striker had been battling ill health for several years having moved to the USA on his retirement in the 1960s.
A family member confirmed his death “Just after the arrival of his son Ronnie, Steve died,” a source said. “His ashes will now be returned to South Africa.”
Mokone shot to fame playing for Durban Bush Bucks in the early 1950s, attracting the attention of scouts from Newcastle before eventually joining Coventry in 1955. He made four appearances for the Sky Blues, scoring one goal, before moving to the Dutch side Heracles.
It was there that he made perhaps his greatest impression, helping to win the 1958 Tweede Divisie and subsequently having a stand at the club’s Polman Stadion named after him. Mokone also has a street named after him in Amsterdam, while the Dutch journalist Tom Egbers wrote a book entitled De Zwarte Meteoor (The Black Meteor) detailing his remarkable life story.
After his success in the Netherlands, Mokone joined Cardiff City and scored on his debut against Liverpool on the opening day of the 1959-60 season but made just two more appearances for them before being signed by Barcelona. A lack of first-team opportunities saw him loaned out to Marseille before spells at Torino and Valencia at the end of his career.
“If Pele of Brazil is the Rolls-Royce of soccer players, Stanley Matthews of England the Mercedes-Benz and Alfredo di Stéfano of Argentina and Spain the Cadillac of soccer players, then Kala of South Africa, lithe and lean, is surely the Maserati,” wrote the Italian football writer Beppe Branco.
Mokone subsequently moved to the US, where he became an assistant professor in psychiatry and a leading light in the anti-Apartheid movement. He was also sentenced to between eight and 12 years in jail for throwing acid into the face of his ex-wife – a charge he always disputed – and was eventually released in August 1990.
Thirteen years later, he became the second South African sportsman to be recognised as a member of the Order of Ikhamanga, the nation’s highest honour for achievement in the creative and performing arts.
Life is the greatest gift that God has given us.
Death is only a bridge towards eternal life with God.
Certainly, heaven is rejoicing for another soul has finally reached his true home.
Our Deepest Condolences…