Kaizer Chiefs Football Club doesn’t have a history as long as some of the major football clubs of the world but has found more success than any other in South Africa. Since its founding in 1970, Kaizer Chiefs FC has had many great players on the roster. Today, we’ll celebrate some of those players as we look at the five best in club history. Before we start the list, some of the players who just missed the cut include Ace Ntsoelengoe, Patrick Ntsoelengoe, Pollen Ndlanya, and Siphiwe Tshabalala.
Lucas Radebe was born in Soweto on April 12, 1969, starting his career as a teenager with Diepkloof Wolf Wanderers. In 1987, he made his way to the ICL Birds youth program before joining Kaizer Chiefs Juniors two years later. Radebe didn’t have to spend much time with the youth program before he made his Kaizer Chiefs debut, doing so in the same year. As a defender, “The Chief” would play for five years with the club, making over 110 league appearances and even netting five goals.
Radebe was the favorite player of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela during his time with Kaizer Chiefs. Because of how good he was, there were English Premier League teams looking for his services. With that, Radebe joined Leeds United in 1994 and remained with the prominent club for more than a decade. Even though he played for Leeds longer, Radebe is considered a Kaizer Chiefs legend.
There’s only one goalkeeper on the list, and that’s of course Itumeleng Khune. Khune wasn’t even a teenager when he became a member of the Kaizer Chiefs organization, joining the youth program in 1999. Interestingly enough, Khune started as a striker but was struggling to keep up and became the team’s ball boy. Trying to keep loose balls from reaching the crowd, Khune showed natural goalkeeping abilities and he changed positions.
In 2004, Khune was moved up to the senior squad in his new position and he spent the first couple of years as a backup. Finally, in 2007, Khune became the regular goaltender and wouldn’t give up the position. Khune has started in well over 250 matches for Khune during his long career and became the goalkeeper of the South African national team starting in 2008. “Spider-Man” has won the PSL title three times and was the PSL Footballer of the Year in 2012-13.
Pretoria native Neil Tovey is the only player on the list who didn’t start his professional football career with Kaizer Chiefs. Instead, the defender began with Virginia United’s youth program but made his professional debut with Durban City. Tovey remained with the club for four years and had nearly 175 league appearances before making his way to AmaZulu. Following another three years there, Tovey made his way to Kaizer Chiefs.
Tovey stuck with the club for the final nine years of his career, playing for nearly the entirety of the 1990s. During that time, Tovey scored 27 goals and made over 340 appearances. While Kaizer Chiefs didn’t win the PSL during Tovey’s time, the club still finished in second place three years in a row and won the National Soccer League twice. In 1996, the club won the Coca-Cola Challenge, as well.
If you want to know where Khumalo got his Doctor moniker, it’s because his full name is Theophilus Doctorson Khumalo. Khumalo, a Soweto native, started his youth career with Moroka Swallows before heading to Kaizer Chiefs in 1986. After a brief stint in the youth program, he made his professional debut in 1987, remaining part of the squad for his entire 17-year career.
Khumalo made 397 of his 444 career appearances with Kaizer Chiefs having been loaned out to Ferro Carril Oeste for four matches and the Columbus Crew for 43. Khumalo scored 30 times during his Kaizer Chiefs career. The highlight came at the end of his career, with Khumalo finally winning the Premier Soccer League title. He also won a trio of National Soccer League titles before his 2004 retirement.
Marks Maponyane takes the top spot on the list, and he proved to be a true Renaissance man during his career. Hailing from Meadowlands, Maponyane started with the Shamrocks youth program before joining Kaizer Chiefs and making his professional debut in 1981. He spent a decade with the club, scoring 85 goals in nearly 200 league appearances.
Maponyane was a big-time snowboarder during his playing days and was even holding down a full-time job while playing football. He was named the Sexiest Man of the Year by Cosmopolitan Magazine and was a legend who ended up with the all-time club scoring record. Maponyane continued to play for seven years after leaving in 1991, including a long stint with Orlando Pirates.