The magic of Kaizer Chiefs is their position in the psyche of the South African population. The club was formed at the height of repressive apartheid legislation in South Africa, and always presented itself as a hip, modern and ‘funky' team, an inspirational vision that fitted in with the mood of the times.
It showed the downtrodden black population their potential at a time when there were few role models for a society repressed by the system of apartheid. With their success, they provided a rare outlet of joy and happiness at a turbulent time, and through the decades they have built on that to become a family favourite.
The side was born as a breakaway from another giant of the South African game - Orlando Pirates. Players were unhappy with their share of bonus payments and split with management in 1969, eventually forming their own side, Kaizer XI, which quickly evolved into Kaizer Chiefs.
Birth of an institution
Chiefs were formally founded in 1970 and were founder members of the National Professional Soccer League in 1971, the black professional league that took the lead role in later years in ending the racial divide in South African soccer.
When apartheid on the football pitch broke down, they were the first black side to beat a white team, a powerful psychological message at the time. Chiefs also were among the first to hire a foreign coach, the Englishman Eddie Lewis, who first worked for the club in the mid-1970s and later had four separate spells with the team.
Chiefs brought to the fore a generation and more of stars on the South African scene.
Most of them are only names elsewhere in Africa, victims of the apartheid-enforced isolation which meant that they could not play elsewhere on the continent and, were not known outside of the country.
But the likes of Abednigo ‘Shaka' Ngcobo, Pule ‘Ace' Ntsoelengoe and Marks Maponyane did all go overseas - Ngcobo played at Penarol in Uruguay, Ntsoelengoe for more than a decade in the USA and Maponyane in Portugal.
Ntsoelengoe is arguably the greatest footballer ever produced by South Africa, with more than 200 league and cup goals in his career and a succession of domestic and foreign trophies. The Americans inducted him into their Soccer Hall of Fame, the only African to have achieved this distinction.
In recent decades, the name of Chiefs has been more synonymous with players like Doctor Khumalo, Donald Khuse, John Moshoeu and Neil Tovey, who was the first post-apartheid captain of South Africa and played more than 500 league and cup matches - which until recently was a national record.
As trend-setters, Chiefs were also the South African representatives in the country's first participation in African club competition in 1993, but lost to Zamalek of Egypt on the away goals rule in extra time in their third tie.
After that, they refused for several years to participate, claiming the African adventures were too costly and brought little in return in terms of financial rewards.
It took several years of solid criticism before Chiefs took the plunge again, and subsequently won the 2001 edition of the African Cup Winners' Cup.
They beat InterClube of Angola in the final, but along the way scored impressive victories over the likes of Tunisia's Club Africain and Ismaili of Egypt.
The Chiefs name comes from Kaizer Motaung, one of the greats of the South African game and today still at the helm of the club. In 1967, the youthful Motaung went from Soweto to play for Atlanta Chiefs in the North American Soccer League. He was named ‘rookie' of the year in his first season, sparkling a sense of pride in South Africa that turned him into an sporting legend overnight.
He was also a member of the Orlando Pirates club, and when he wasn't playing in the USA, came back to perform for his local team. On 7 January 1970, having broken from Pirates, Motaung's team was formally created, headed by teammates who had also been suspended as ‘rebels' by Pirates. Motaung was a player, coach and managing director, and today is chairman of an empire that has grown from humble origins.
The present day
In South Africa, Chiefs have won more titles than any other side, but over the last decade have seen their traditional dominance severely challenged. They are also the cup kings of South African soccer, with more than 40 trophies in almost four decades. Chiefs for years were the team to beat, always challenging for honours. Their lowest league position was ninth in 2002 and again in 2006. It is perhaps a measure of how other clubs have caught up with them in recent years that the trophies are not as frequent as before. But Chiefs still attract the biggest crowds, and their supporters are a passionate collection of vibrant colour and noise.
Chiefs will become the first club in South Africa to own their own stadium next year when a new venue in Krugersdorp, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, is completed. Like all other South African sides, they have led a nomadic existence, starting at Soweto's Orlando stadium, then moving to Ellis Park and Soccer City.
*The honours listed above are considered to be the club’s major titles and, as such, are not intended to be a full list of achievements.
Kaizer Motaung (1971-77), Pule Ntsoelengoe (1971-88), Vusi Lamola (1971-81), Joseph Setlhodi (1971-85), Abednigo Ngcobo (1973-80), Nelson Dladla (1977-88), Jan Lechaba (1977-87), Frank Pereira (1980-84), Moran Khulu (1982-86), Absalom Thindwa (1985-92), Marks Maponyane (1981-92), Doctor Khumalo (1987-2002), Fani Madida (1987-94), Shane MacGregor (1988-95), Neil Tovey (1989-2000), Lucas Radede (1990-94), Collins Mbesuma (2004-05)