Kessie ‘Super’ Naidu — 57 — is of average height and stout built. He lives in Durban and works for a shipping company. So far, nothing ‘Super’ about the man, one of the thousands of people of Indian origin living in Durban. Like most South Africans he too loves sport, but unlike most of the citizens of the Rainbow Nation with roots in India, he used to play the game.
Football, better known as soccer here, was his vocation and it took him to the top flight of the game in South Africa, including a few years with Kaizer Chiefs and Manning Rangers — two of the most prominent clubs in the country. Naidu, however, couldn’t play for his country as South Africa was debarred from international sports in the 80s.
His talent as a sportsman earned him the nickname ‘Super’ in his school days and to see the extent to which it stuck, one has to go through the newspaper clippings of his playing days. The captions below his pictures identify him as Super Naidu, and along with the reports, they confirm that he was a noted footballer.
“Those days (the 70s and 80s), Indians (people of Indian origin) in South Africa not only took active interest in soccer they played it too. There were other Indians in the professional league (South Africa’s top tier league at that time),” says Naidu whose brothers Dulu, Ramu and Raju also played at that level.
“I didn’t get the opportunity to play for South Africa because there was no national team during my days. I ‘represented’ South Africa only when the national team of Mauritius visited us and we visited them in return. Sadly, our children have shown no interest in playing the game when things changed in their times,” adds Naidu.
The former midfielder, who played as sweeper in his later years, thinks the perception of football in the present generation of South African ‘Indians’ has changed. “I can’t say why, but they think soccer is a black man’s game. They follow the game, but don’t play. Also, the computer and cell phone have taken them away from the play ground.”
Though he doesn’t know much about Indian football, the name Bob Houghton sounded familiar to Naidu. The Briton aside, Naidu also knows that the Indian team doesn’t play too many international games. Beyond that, “Mohun Bagan” is all that he has heard of.
He hopes the proposed tournament in Durban featuring Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in July “will work” from an Indian perspective in the sense that more South Africans of Indian origin “will start taking interest” in football. “Maybe some day this tournament will become something like the IPL”.
Wishful thinking, but a different dream nonetheless. If only people back in India running the game shared Naidu’s super dream!