The gripping story of popular Bloemfontein Celtic and its staunch supporters has been documented. Researcher and retired sports editor, Molefi Mika, has written two books about Celtic supporters and long-time owner, the late Dr Petrus “Whitehead” Molemela.
The famous green and white club turns 50 years in 2019.
“Resilient Ntate Molemela” is a comprehensive biography about Dr Molemela. He joined the club six years after it was formed. His evangelical passion for the club was legendary.
Molemela, who died in 2017 aged 83, pioneered the introduction of skilled foreign players. He joined Celtic at the height of rivalry between three local clubs; Mangaung FC, Mangaung United and Bloemfontein Celtic.
Mika says the formation of Celtic brought tension in Bloemfontein.
“You’d know that their lives were threatened, especially the founding members, Mathobisa and Mahatanya. The fact that there was another big team Mangaung United when they started this club. It brought those tensions.”
Despite some boardroom challenges, Celtic remain resolute and forthright, but with controversial supporters. It is for this reason that “Dance Siwelele” has been dedicated to their never-say-die attitude.
Victor “Ou Jan” Mahatanya, Celtic founding owner, says that for 11 years after the club was formed, he was the only one sponsoring it.
“After 11 years of struggle, Celtic had no sponsors. I was the only one who was sponsoring it. You know my father left me with more than R4 million. So I used all that money to form Celtic; going all over buying players.”
Molemela managed the club for more than 20 years. He sold it when he could no longer sustain it financially. His son, Sello Molemela, says that the club took a lot from his father.
“It took a lot from my father; his time, his money, his time from family and us as children. We used to be hands-on. We used to work at his team.”
The captivating story of the Phunya Selesele club has been well received by the club’s old players. Former goalkeeper, Michael Litsili, stayed at the club despite challenges.
“Six of our players had to leave the team because of the squabble with the coach. And then I found myself just saying that I’m not going to play soccer anywhere if I can’t play for Celtic.”
Former midfielder, Godfrey Mbambo, says that they did not focus on money too much.
“We didn’t focus too much on money. We were doing what we were supposed to do just to play football.”
Molemela built a powerful brand and all subsequent Celtic owners capitalised on it.