Soccer fun in the prison sun

Ananias Ndlovu went with the rest of the members of the WJP to attend a very unusual football match and party at Johannesburg Prison’s Medium B:

It was a cup final spiced with all the ingredients a soccer match needs: a capacity crowd (though, oddly, most were wearing the same clothes!), TV cameras, high-flying tackles, spectacular goals, dance, and a display of the skills that accompany top-flight football.

There were even two well-known teams and rivals, “Sundowns” and “Supersport United”, out on the pitch. But there was something missing – the sound of vuvuzelas. For this was no ordinary soccer final …

The game was played behind high walls with electric fences and those fortunate enough to attend – including the Wits Justice Project – could gain entry via invitation only.

It was a soccer match between two teams of convicted prisoners – and they were playing, often brilliantly as it turned out, on a pitch within the walls of Medium B Johannesburg Correctional Centre on Thursday.

Even though the game started at a slow pace, in the end it did not disappoint. Spectators and guests, including Gauteng MEC for Sports and Recreation Lebogang Maile, Sushi King Kenny Kunene, and various kwaito artists, were treated to a four-goal thriller as “Sundowns” beat “Supersport United” 4-0.

“Sundowns” were crowned this year’s Champions of the Director’s Cup. They went home with a trophy and gold medals, which they wore with pride.

This year’s tournament gained momentum when two former prisoners, Kenny “Sushi” Kunene and business partner, Gayton “G” McKenzie, came on board.

Some other establishments that were hailed as sponsors included Kunene’s club, ZAR; Johannesburg Water; Crest Kitchen Consultants; Sakhumzi Restaurant; the Little Green Beverages; and the Gauteng Department of Sport and Recreation. With many township tournaments failing to secure even a single sponsor for tournaments, it was evident that Kunene and McKenzie wanted to make a difference to the men dubbed “a danger” to society.

Addressing the inmates after the tournament, Kunene appealed to them to think BIG. He told them that the high walls limit only their movement and not their thinking. “I was here as well. I know what it is like to be in those orange and black clothes, but that did not stop me from thinking.

“I knew what I wanted and that is why I am appealing to you all – start thinking big. When I was eating sushi on that half-naked woman, I was thinking about the time I was in jail,” said Kunene in front of cheering inmates.

Business partner Mackenzie, an admitted bank robber, also gave hope to men who are serving life sentences. “You can make it as well. We did it and no one stopped us. Today we are rich. When I went to Cape Town to buy a new T-shirt and walked to the front of the queue, and someone asked why I was doing that, I said it’s because I have more money than him. This shows that if you think big and act big you can achieve big,” said McKenzie to the cheering convicts.

Just as the pair thought they had stolen the show, two exotic dancers sashayed on to the pitch. It was entertainment time and kwaito star upon kwaito star began to do what they do best – to the joy of the cheering fans.

There is one rule when you visit a South African prison, especially when you are a woman: dress appropriately. But on Thursday the rule was largely disregarded. The eager dancers excelled when it comes to the famous “shake what your mamma gave you” dance.

Lvovo Derango of Durban Finest fame did not disappoint as he showed off his first-rate dance moves. With songs like Amandla, Elvovo kept the crowd flying high with excitement until kwaito queen of the moment, Winnie Khumalo, took to the stage. She kept the crowd screaming for more after singing their favourite – Live my life.

Event organiser Neo Modiga, who is also the chairperson of the Johannesburg Prison Soccer League and an inmate in Medium B, said events like this make the prisoners feel that time is moving faster.

“It is like six months of my sentence has passed”, he said. Modiga said that the tournament was a gesture to the Director of Johannesburg Correctional Centre.

“We have a soccer league here in prison and this is our cup competition. All sections participated and we ended up with eight teams. They all played in the knockout competition until “Sundowns” and “Supersport United” reached the final. Our guys are talented and that is why we even invited soccer scouts to watch this tournament. Maybe their talent may be put to use when they get out of this place.”

At least for a moment, there was soccer, motivation and dance for the men in orange and black who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Will they listen to their heroes (Kunene and MacKenzie) who said “Do something with your life when you come out of prison”?

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

One Response to Soccer fun in the prison sun

  1. TEBOHO says:

    I THINK WHAT PRISONER ARE ITS A NICE THING AND IT DOES NOT MEAN COUSE THEY R IN PRISON THERE ARE BAD PEOPLE ITS JUST THY WERE IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME . SO I WISHE THAT THY WERE LISTEN TO KENNY MACKENZIE AND IWISHE THM AL GUD LUCK WHEN THEY COME OUT OF PRISON . AND I LOVE EACH AND EVRE ONE OF THEM.

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