The Don of football management

Former Berea Football Club manager Don Mudaly at the Curries Fountain turnstiles. | Deena Pillay

Former Berea Football Club manager Don Mudaly at the Curries Fountain turnstiles. | Deena Pillay

Published May 12, 2024


Durban — His professionalism as a football manager, talent-spotting ability, hardworking nature and being a people’s person endeared Don Mudaly to all who interacted with him.

Some believe Mudaly’s “never-saydie” attitude was pivotal in his Berea side’s victory over Sundowns in the 1976 Coca-Cola Shield final at the Curries Fountain Stadium, against the odds, in what was considered one of the most outstanding fixtures played under the auspices of the old Federation Professional League.

Mudaly, 78, died earlier this week. His funeral will be held at the St Anthony’s Catholic Church, Durban, on Tuesday.

Brijlall Ramguthee, former editor of the Post newspaper, said his association with Mudaly dated back to the 1960s.

At the time, Mudaly worked as an advertising representative and Ramguthee was still cutting his teeth as a reporter and doing clerical duties at The Leader newspaper.

By the time Ramguthee began reporting on sport, Mudaly had become the manager of Berea, playing in the FPL.

Ramguthee recalled how Mudlay lured speedy Cape-Town based leftwinger James George to Berea in the 1975 season from under the noses of his KwaZulu-Natal rivals.

Berea FC manager Don Mudaly leads his team on to the field at Curries Fountain Stadium for the Coca-Cola Shield final against Sundowns in 1976, followed by Duda Moonsamy. | Facebook South African Football History

“I also remember going with him to Wentworth to sign Gary Goldstone,” Ramguthee said.

“We always had cordial relations. He spoke candidly about stuff and I had an open forum with him.”

Ramguthee said Mudaly had an eye for spotting talent and was a shrewd manager.

“He did not rely on others to recommend players; he scouted for himself,” said Ramguthee.

Mudaly was alive to the goalscoring prowess of Stanley Govender, a teenager playing for Del Rio Spurs in Chatsworth’s amateur leagues, and signed him in 1976. Manning Rangers also hunted for his signature, but Govender said he opted for Berea because of Mudaly’s professional approach.

The 18-year-old Govender, who also played cricket for Natal, was in the thick of Berea’s 1976 Coca-Cola Shield success, which he regards as one of the FPL’s most iconic football events.

On November 7, 1976, Berea came three goals down after half-time to eventually tie the match that went into extra time, in front of a packed-to-capacity Curries Fountain. In the replay, a week later, Sundowns led 3-1 with about 18 minutes to go, but Berea clawed their way back to 3-3 before full-time. In extra-time Berea’s superior conditioning saw them pull away to a 6-3 victory.

Govender appreciated Mudaly’s management style, especially dealing with some “strong dressing room personalities” and ensuring that everyone was happy and giving their best.

“He was always diplomatic and knew the right things to say. He made a great impact on my life,” said Govender.

James George has fond memories of football manager and friend Don Mudaly.

James George previously played for Cape Town Spurs and Cape Town United before landing in Durban, and eventually gave into the persuasions of Mudaly to join Berea.

“Don was one of the greatest human beings I know. He helped to shape my life. He and his wife Faith were fantastic to me while I remained with Berea until 1978.”

George recalled how Mudaly took him to a job interview in Durban for a structural draughtsman’s position which he landed.

“He had an astute football mind. His life revolved around football. He did phenomenal things without financial compensation.”

George said he and Mudaly remained family friends through the years.

Goalkeeper Derek Naidoo joined Berea in 1980.

Naidoo said 1985 was a memorable year as he was part of the Manning Rangers team managed by Mudaly that won the Osman Spice Knockout Cup, and he was named “player of the year”.

“Don was a principled person who knew what he wanted. He got involved with everything related to a football club. His passion for football was exemplary and he expected similar commitment from his players.”

Mudaly continued in football administration after moving away from team management, and he was an influential figure in the SA Fed Legends organisation formed in 2007.

One of their key objectives was to recognise and support players and officials from the old South African Soccer League and the FPL from 1960 to 1990.

Don Mudaly was known to be an excellent communicator throughout his years of football management and administration. Picture: Facebook-South African Football History.

Sunday Tribune