Sun. Jul 12th, 2020

A national treasure: Remembering soccer star Ace Ntsoelengoe

“If Ace was here now, he’d be spoken of in the same breath as Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi,” – Clive Barker.

a national treasure remembering soccer star ace ntsoelengoe - A national treasure: Remembering soccer star Ace Ntsoelengoe

Patrick Ntsoelengoe is one of the greatest ever “lost talents” of the African game. Blossoming during a time when South Africa was banished from world football due to the cruel apartheid regime. Ace, as he was affectionately known, paid the heavy price of not being allowed to showcase his talent to the world due to the political unrest in South Africa.

Early life

Ace’s journey into football started at a young age when he joined an amateur coloured team called Powerlines FC at the age of 11. However, afyer moving to the West Rand of Johannesburg, he later joined Mohlakeng Home Stars where he rapidly started to gain popularity. It was at Home Stars where he caught the attention of the likes of Moroka Swallows, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs and at the age of 17, Ace finally signed for the Amakhosi.

2fee415f ace - A national treasure: Remembering soccer star Ace Ntsoelengoe

His career

His career ran from between 1971 to 1984. After beginning his career with Kaizer Chiefs, where he achieved idol status in the country, Ntsoelengoe moved to the United States, where he enjoyed a successful career at clubs such as Minnesota, Denver and Toronto. Ntsoelengoe spent almost his entire career with Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa. It was during the local off-season when Ace played in both America and Canada. Due to South Africa’s banishment from international football during the apartheid era, Ace made just a single appearance for Bafana Bafana — in 1977 versus Rhodesia.

“If Ace was here now, he’d be spoken of in the same breath as Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi,” former South Africa coach Clive Barker told BBC Sport.

“When you write the book of South African football history, right up there at the very top would have to be the king himself, Ace. He was the type of player you could plan everything around — there was one cup final we played against the Chiefs where he managed to control the ball and produce such a stunning shot from an angle that bent inside the far post that I actually stood up and applauded him.”

After retiring in the mid-80s, Ntsoelengoe returned to his beloved Kaizer Chiefs and undertook a coaching role in their Youth Development academy, as well as being involved in South Africa’s under-23 side. He passed away of a heart attack in 2006, aged just 50. He was a rightful recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga, South Africa’s highest honour for citizens who have excelled in the arts, culture, literature and sport.

Ace is the only South African in the American National Soccer Hall of Fame, and is remembered as one of the greatest talents Africa ever produced by fans and players on both sides of the Atlantic. He’ll ultimately be remembered as one of apartheid’s biggest crimes towards the world.

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