Sergio Dos Santos: My First Soweto Derby was Supernatural

Sergio Dos Santos, a former Kaizer Chiefs player and coach, as well as an Orlando Pirates coach, took us through his first playing experience of the daunting-to-many Soweto derby, and explains why it felt like a supernatural experience.

Before this, he was best known for being part of the Hellenic team in the 1970’s, which was filled with  world-class English First Division (now the Premier league) players . Hellenic were a marvel to watch, and were dubbed one of the best club sides to ever grace South African football. 

“I joined Kaizer Chiefs in 1982, I was already coming to the latter stages of my career, ”Sergio Dos Santos told This Is Football.Africa.

“I was about 30 plus years old, I had stopped playing pro football for 6 years. I was basically playing amateur football for about six years, before making that huge jump back into the pro league. I’m not gonna tell you the reasons why, but that’s what happened. The very first derby against Pirates at the Orlando Stadium, it was just something that is exceptionally difficult to put into words. You can’t describe the feeling, all I can tell you is that when I walked onto the field…First of all I was shitting myself, I was sitting in the changing room with all the experience that I had, yet I was really nervous and feeling uncomfortable, which was very unusual for me because I was a very confident player.”

Sergio Dos Santos was also one of the few white players to have played in the white National Football League, which is the first professional association in South Africa, and the Federation League, which was a non-racial league. 

“But here we are talking about something which is a little bit different, a different era,“ continued Dos Santos.

“When you come onto the field, the boo’s from the Orlando Pirates supporters, and the cheers from the Kaizer Chiefs supporters at the very same time, it just lifts you. You feel like you’re floating in the air, it’s just quite unbelievable. It is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. If you’ve never played in the derby, you’ll never understand what it feels like. It’s like you’re out of your body, an out of body experience. It’s like a supernatural experience, just unbelievable.” 

“We drew 2-2, it was a very powerful game at Orlando Stadium, it was just unbelievable, and it was at the time South Africa was going through difficult times, and there was a lot going on. You were playing not just for yourself, but you were playing for the people too. You were living the experience, and going through the changes facing South Africa too. Being involved in a game of that nature, of that calibre, with about sixty thousand people in the stadium, but the stadium could probably only fit about twenty  to thirty thousand people was surreal. I remember clearly we were camping at the Jorissen Hotel in those days, we had to go back after the game. When I got into my car driving home, I was struggling to absorb the experience that I had just been involved in.”

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Former Chiefs Coach – My Heart Says Chiefs, My Head Says Pirates

Sergio Dos Santos, former Kaizer Chiefs player and coach