the story of Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala
Double Action Mamelodi Sundowns is one of the best soccer clubs in South Africa. This is mainly because of the great skills of its coach, Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala. Learn and Teach spoke to him…
It’s a cool, sunny Saturday. We are at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg on this day, 25 September 1990. The occasion: the Bob Super Save Bowl competition between “The Brazilians”, Mamelodi Sundowns and “The “Beautiful Birds”, Moroka Swallows.
The two teams play an entertaining and attacking football. The fans are always on their feet cheering their heroes. Fifteen minutes into the match “The Birds” score an excellent goal. “The Birds'” supporters, on the western side of the stadium, go… wild with joy. On the eastern part, the Mamelodi side, it’s as quiet as a cemetary yard in the dead of the night.
It’s twenty eight minutes into the game and the match is as fast-paced as ever. A Sundowns player is badly tackled and down he goes with a loud groan. Tempers are high… Suddenly, a tall dark-skinned man rushes into the field. This is none other than Stanley Screamer Tshabalala.
Moments later Screamer leaves the field. He walks slowly towards the exit, his head is bowed, and he is obviously sad. The man has been given the most serious punishment on the soccer field — he was shown a red card for arguing with a Swallows player. This means he was being sent off the field and will be suspended for the next three matches. To add salt to the wounds, Sundowns loses the match: 2-0.
Screamer Tshabalala is Mamelodi Sundowns’ coach. He is one of very few black coaches in the National Soccer League (NSL). In spite of what happened to him on this day, his record is impressive, and without doubt he is the most successful black coach in the country. This Saturday’s defeat is the first in 25 matches.
THE EARLY YEARS
Screamer was born in Orlando East in 1949. The first sport to attract him was boxing. He was a student of the famous Transvaal boxing champ, Jerry Moloi.
“I started boxing lessons while I was still at school,” says Screamer. “I wasn’t a great boxer. Sometimes I got a good hiding from my colleagues. At home my parents complained about this ‘panelbeating’ (bruises). I did not last long and I decided to give up the sport.
“I then decided to devote my whole life and spirit to soccer. I was already a regular in the street teams that we formed as ‘laaities’. In 1968, I was recruited into the local team, Orlando Preston Brothers.
“I started playing for this team in the second division. Soon, I was promoted into the first division. Playing in the middle field was what I liked most. This gave a lot of room for doing what youngsters like most — playing entertaining football,” Screamer says.
“A year later in 1969, I got a big break. I was recruited by the present chairperson of the NSL, Rodger Sishi, to play for Alexandra Real Fighters. Fighters was a good team and I gained a lot of experience as a player.
“It was while I was playing for this team that Kaizer Motaung and the late Ewert “The Lip” Nene formed Kaizer’s XI — now Kaizer Chiefs. I joined this team in 1970. Chiefs played in the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). That is how I became a professional player,” says Screamer.
TWO BROKEN LEGS
“I regard Kaizer Chiefs as my school of soccer. I learned a lot from guys like Kaizer and “Zero” Johnson, who was the club’s coach. But of course, I have developed those skills more since those early days,” says Screamer.
“Ten years later, in 1980, I left Chiefs and joined Orlando Pirates. A few months later, I got injured and broke my left leg. I couldn’t play for a while. Many people thought I was finished. It was a difficult period in my life. But I didn’t allow myself to be discouraged. “After recovering I played a few games and I found out that I could still go on.
Soon after that, in 1981, I went to play in Florida in the United States of America (USA). I stayed there for a year. It was so exciting and I learnt so much.
“When I came back home, I was full of energy and hoping to share my experiences with the other players. The team organised a ‘welcome home’ game for me. I thought I’d do a trick or two that I learnt abroad. Unfortunately, I only touched the ball twice. Then I broke my right leg!” says Screamer.
Screamer is not the kind of person who is easily discouraged. After his leg healed, he went straight back into training. “I was lucky,” he says. “Pirates appointed me coach of the club. I was so happy that the club had given me this opportunity. I knew from the beginning that I would succeed. In that same year the club won the BP Top Eight competition. I smiled from ear to ear when we were presented with the trophy.”
A NEW BEGINNING
In 1982, Screamer left Pirates to join Durban African Wanderers. “This time I put on my boots again while at the same time coaching the team. It was a difficult job being a player-coach. But nothing is easy in this world,” says Screamer.
“I stayed with Wanderers for a year. After this I decided to accept a coaching job in the second division of the league. I joined Alexandra Blackpool and stayed with the team until 1984.”
Screamer may not have achieved fame in these years but his skills were improving by day. Then in 1985 came his chance of a lifetime. Since then his name has been added to those of the greatest coaches.
In 1985, a Soweto businessman and a great soccer fan, Zola Mahobe, bought a small and struggling team called Mamelodi Sundowns. At that time the team was third from the bottom of the 18 teams in the NSL. Everybody thought that the team would never make the first division again the following year. But Zola knew better!
Zola went around looking for coaches and met Screamer. “This is the right man for the job,” Zola said when he met Screamer. “Can you start right away?” he asked. Without thinking twice, Screamer accepted the job on the spot.
“Zola said to me: ‘Screamer, I want you to build this team into a powerful force that will challenge the ‘big three’ of Soweto, particularly Kaizer Chiefs. I leave the matter to you.’ This was a difficult job but I agreed to take it,” says Screamer.
What happened to Sundowns after Screamer took over is now history.
BUILDING THE TEAM
\Screamer’s first job was to make sure that the team was not demoted to the second division. He succeed and they remained in the first division. That was the first sweet taste of victory. But the really difficult job was still to come.
Says Screamer: “We started by building the team. Zola and I drew up a ‘shopping list’ of players we needed. Soon big names were playing in the team: Pitso “Jingles” Mosimane, Mike “Sporo” Mangena, Mike Ntombela, Andries Chitja and others.
“Some of the people in the management of the club were opposed to Zola employing a black coach. The coach just before me was also black and these people thought Zola was wasting his time. But the man stuck to his guns,” says Screamer.
Soon, these people saw that Zola was right and they were wrong. In the very first year Sundowns won against the big teams that previously looked down on it. Also, its position improved on the NSL log. For the first time in many years the threat of demotion was not a worry.
In the same year, 1986, came the taste of real victory. ”The Brazilians” won the finals of the Mainstay cup competition. There was joy and dancing in the streets of Mamelodi. Overnight Screamer became the “people’s coach”.
“The Brazilians” went on to score more wins over the more fancied clubs. Soon, Sundowns was recognised as a force in South African soccer. Screamer realised that he needed to learn more about coaching. In 1987, he went to Italy to improve his coaching skills. When he came back he introduced his famous ‘piano and shoeshine’ style.
‘PIANO AND SHOESHINE’
We asked Screamer what is different about his coaching style and the style of other coaches. “You see, many teams have confidence in white coaches only. These coaches’ style of play is copied from British soccer because many of them have played in Britain. Their style does not allow for freedom of the players,” Screamer says.
“Players today are robots, they do what the coaches want — they are not as creative as they used to be. In my opinion these coaches are destroying the spirit of entertainment that is so great in South African football. My ‘piano and shoe-shine’ style, on the other hand, simply means that the players must be relaxed and play entertaining football. In that way they have much more freedom to do what they like while at the same pushing forward.
“I learnt this ‘piano’ in Italy. During my stay there, I was watching a match and I heard a coach who always said to his players ‘piana’. I asked this man what ‘piana’ meant. He told me that it meant ‘relax’. The coach was telling his players to be relaxed when they had the ball under their control.
“When I came back to South Africa I used the tactics I learnt. I also encouraged my players to be relaxed. Instead of saying ‘piana,’ we said ‘piano’. I also allowed my players to be creative, to polish the ball a bit and entertain fans — that I called ‘shoeshine’,” says Screamer.
In 1988 many teams were stopped in their tracks by this deadly ‘piano and shoeshine style’. The same year, “The Brazilians” won the Ohlssons Challenge cup, the BP Top Eight cup and the glorious Castle League competition. To crown it all, the team was awarded the “Castle League Team of the Year”.
THE BAD DAYS
In the meantime, Zola was arrested and found guilty for accepting stolen money from the Standard Bank. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The team was taken over by the bank and then sold to the Krok brothers. Things also started to go sour for Screamer.
“Zola’s arrest hurt me and the club. We tried to keep things together for some time. But we did not succeed. Immediately after Zola left, some dissatisfaction started among the players. The officials of the club, including me, were dismissed by the players in 1989. It was a sad day for me…
“I was then employed by Moroka Swallows for a short while. In the meantime Sundowns appointed three coaches. The club’s position did not improve. The team did not win any competition that year. The fans demanded me back and I returned to the club this year,” says Screamer with a bright smile.
“I have a very good relationship with our players now,” stresses Screamer. “Today, we are a family — and we are more united than ever, ever before. The team is doing well and I am hopeful that we are going to gain more victories this year.
“We have already won two cups and we are in the race for the NSL championship. So far we have lost only two league matches. As our motto says: ‘The Sky is the Limit’. We are really aiming to reach the skies,” says Screamer proudly.
THE HAPPIEST MAN
We asked Screamer how he feels about Zola’s absence. “I feel really bad. The team, myself, and everybody owe much to Zola. If it was not for him, the team would not be where it is now.
“I would like Learn and Teach to send this message to him: We will keep up the good work until he comes back. And, if on his release, he is able to come back to the team, I’ll be the happiest man alive,” says Screamer.
Much praise should go to Screamer for the courage he has shown in the face of all the difficulties he met until he became a great coach. And to those who still belong to the old school and believe that white coaches are better than black ones — we say: look at Screamer and eat your words