“Playing in a Soweto Derby is madness,” former Orlando Pirates star Gora Ebrahim reflects his career

Gora Ebrahim opened his time at Orlando Pirates, playing in a Soweto derby in front of 100 000 fans and kicking his coach in the chest as he reflected on his career with the POST. Picture: Jehran Naidoo/The POST

Gora Ebrahim opened his time at Orlando Pirates, playing in a Soweto derby in front of 100 000 fans and kicking his coach in the chest as he reflected on his career with the POST. Picture: Jehran Naidoo/The POST

Published May 5, 2024


FROM playing in the starting 11 for Orlando Pirates during a Soweto derby in front of 100 000 people to kicking his coach, Walter Rautmann, in the chest after substituting him at the Thohoyandou Stadium, former professional footballer Ebrahim Gora, reflected on a colourful career with the POST.

Ebrahim, 57, the only Indian professional footballer to have graced the pitch in a Buccaneers outfit, said he was now entering a different stage in both life and work.

The Vereeniging-born athlete said he owed much of his success on the football pitch to the lessons he learnt while growing up on the dusty streets of Roshnee during apartheid.

Being the only player of Indian descent at Orlando Pirates, Ebrahim said it was difficult to break into an all-black team due to cultural barriers and impenetrable cliques that existed at the time.

Gora Ebrahim in his young days. Picture: Supplied

But determination, an insatiable work ethic, and sheer confidence, helped him enter the upper echelon of professional football in the country, helping him forge a path forward and into the history books.

Ebrahim spoke about his most memorable experience as a professional footballer.

“It would have to be playing the Soweto derby in front of 100 000 people at the old FNB Stadium. It was absolute madness; an indescribable feeling. It was the Orlando Pirates and Chiefs derby and it was definitely my most memorable experience as a professional footballer.

“It was in 1993. I think I wore the number 24 jersey at the time and played as a centre half (defender) and I was a sweeper a bit like Frans Beckanbauer,” Ebrahim said.

His career at Pirates lasted a year-and-a-half and he also played for professional side, Dynamos.

Front row, second from the right, Gora Ebrahim poses for a team picture while dressed in a Dynamos uniform. Picture: Supplied.

As a youngster, before entering the professional arena at the age of 15, Ebrahim said, his father always called him “Frans Beckenbaur” after the West-German footballer who was also known as “the Kaiser”.

Being young in the Indian suburb of Roshnee during the 1980s, the only options for success came through cricket, football and academics, which Ebrahim also excelled at.

But football was where his passion lay, and mind lingered.

“I started playing professionally at the age of 15 for Vereeniging Old Boys. I was one of the youngest players at the time to turn pro. I turned 15 in September and in January, I was playing against the big boys like Calvin Peterson (Moroka Swallows). Two months later, I made my debut while I was in Standard 8. I knew then like I do now, the only way was up.

“In 1982, when I made my debut, it was an apartheid world, so we did not play across the border (with other race groups). At the time, a lot of good coloured and Indian players were around. But around eight or nine years later, when we started unifying, that's when we all played together and that’s when the Indian players started dying out. I was one of the few that managed to play for Dynamos in the NSL (National Soccer League) and then for Orlando Pirates.

“It was a really tough world to be in. I was the only Indian player at Pirates and one of two at Dynamos, so it was tough because we really needed to stand out,” Ebrahim explained.

“But it was one hell of an experience.”

He said the cherry on top of his illustrious career was being called to join the Bafana Bafana camp in 1992.

Despite his talents on the pitch, there are many in that specific era of football who remember Ebrahim for one incident, which resulted in him being escorted out of Thohoyandou Stadium in Limpopo by police.

It was the day Ebrahim kicked his coach Walter Rautmann in the chest.

At the time, Ebrahim was playing for Rabali Blackpool and decided to attack his coach because he was substituted early into the game, “far too early” than he expected, he said.

It was also the day that he decided to quit football as a career and focus on writing.

“I wrote a book, ”No Regrets“, and the book basically detailed why I did what I did that day. In short, I was young, a hothead at times but I do feel remorseful about it. I apologised to him so many times but yeah, I can’t ever take that back. But like the book says, I have no regrets."

The 57-year-old and his family now plan to relocate from Gauteng to Cape Town, but Ebrahim does not want the fun and adventure or the “life of a footballer” to stop.

“So my family and I are relocating to Cape Town soon. We are going to take all of our stuff but I have a 700cc Honda motorbike, which I am leaving behind. I am going back to Gauteng after we move our stuff, so I can take a road trip to Cape Town on my motorcycle. I think it's a new phase for me. I have long hair and beads around my wrist. I just need maybe a couple of tattoos but yeah, this is my plan for now,” Ebrahim chuckled.


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