A Kaizer Chiefs legend has recalled how he almost joined Mamelodi Sundowns after being recruited from the School of Excellence by them.
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In an interview with Mahlatse Mphahlele on PrimeSportsWithMahlatse, Bernard Parker revealed coach Sam Mbatha was instrumental in him joining the Sundowns reserve team.
However, at the time, while playing for Sundowns was tempting, he wasn’t earning any salary yet he needed it badly to be able to provide at home.
Parker used to travel to and from Chloorkop with Khabo Zondo who was at Sundowns as the lived not far from each other – Vosloorus and Boksburg.
Parker said, at some point, he found himself having to choose between Sundowns and Benoni Premier United who, at the time, were willing to offer him a salary.
And he chose Benoni Premier United because of that, but at the same time, Parker also realised that getting to the Sundowns senior team was going to be tough.
The reason being a lot of big-name players such as Benedict Vilakazi and Peter Ndlovu were at Sundowns following their return from Europe, while the club had great local players such as Gift Leremi and Sipho Nunens.
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“At that time, it was coach Sam Mbatha who left the school and went to Sundowns, because Sundowns came to the school to steal a lot of players from the school,” said Parker.
“I mean, they came and jabbed a lot of them. Sipho Nunens was one of them, they also tried to jab Richard Rantjie, and a few other guys who went in to the Sundowns academy but unfortunately they didn’t make it, and it was through coach Sam Mbatha.”
“So, before I could graduate, coach Sam Mbatha came to the school, and said, ‘you are going to come to Sundowns,” he explained.
“Then I went to Sundowns, and I caught the eye of coach Khabo Zondo who doesn’t live far from here… he lives in Vooslorus. And he said to me, ‘because we don’t stay far from each other, we will travel everyday to Chloorkop’.”
“So, I traveled with him everyday, and it was so tough at home that I just needed little cash to keep us going at home, and Sundowns put something down for me because Benoni Premier United is here but I needed to make a decision whether I go with them because they were prepared to give me a salary and here (Sundowns), I’m coming everyday, and I’m just coming for free, for nothing,” added Parker.
“And it was so tough because I was in the reserve team, and coach Ted Dumitru was the senior coach. And that time, all the guys came back from Europe to Sundowns – Tso Vilakazi came back from Denmark, Gift Leremi was there, Sipho Nunens, Peter Ndlovu came back from England… you know, it was difficult because it was a team full of superstars.
“So, it was difficult to get promoted, and I said to the management, ‘I can’t anymore. I need to provide at home’. I just needed a little bit at home hence I decided to go and play for Benoni Premier United,” concluded Parker.
BERNARD PARKER WENT ON TO BECOME A KAIZER CHIEFS LEGEND
After years of playing for Benoni Premier United, Parker got the chance to go abroad where he signed for Serbian side Partizan Belgrade before moving to FC Twente in the Eredivisie.
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Parker then went to Greece to sign for Panserraikos on a short-term loan deal from FC Twente but decided to return home to join Chiefs in 2011.
The utility player cemented his legendary status at Chiefs where he spent 11 years and left as the club’s all-time goalscorer in the PSL era with 60 goals.