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Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe (1956 – 2006)

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe (1956 – 2006) Awarded for:
His excellent achievements in the game of football locally and abroad and contributing to the development of the game in South Africa.
Profile of Patrick Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe

Patrick Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe was born on 26 February 1956 in Randfontein. He was one of the most talented soccer players ever from South Africa, and played 11 seasons in the North American Soccer League (NASL), beginning in 1973 with the Miami Toros. Ntsoelengoe made his mark both in South Africa, for glamour club Kaizer Chiefs, and in the United States of America (USA), where he was elected to the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003.

The star midfielder of many fine Kaizer Chiefs teams of the mid-1970s to mid-1980s was accorded that honour along with seven other players, including Carlos Alberto, the captain of possibly the greatest team in history, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winners.

His genius as a midfield general helped his club win not only consistently, but with style.

However, Ntsoelengoe spent most of his prime football-playing days in North America, although he did return during the off-season to play for Chiefs.

The midfield maestro played 11 seasons in North America, representing the Miami Torros, Denver Dynamos, Minnesota Kicks and Toronto Blizzards in the NASL.

By the time Ace was done with the NASL, he ranked among the league’s all-time leaders in both appearances and goals scored. He was also voted onto the NASL’s first-team all star line-up in 1979 and 1982, and earned honourable mentions in 1977, 1978 and 1980.

In the NASL, players were awarded points both for goals scored and for “assists” (setting up goals). Ace ranks seventh on the all-time list, a lasting testament to his all-round performances, showing off not only his individual ability but also his team work.

The NASL season was structured so that, after the regular league season, the top teams would qualify for the play-offs. Ntsoelengoe made the play-offs in nine consecutive seasons, although he never managed to land the NASL title. He reached the final three times, but was on the losing side on all three occasions.

Ntsoelengoe was an awesome presence in the midfield.

Ntsoelengoe, says Clive Barker, former coach of the South African soccer team, was arguably the best player ever produced by South Africa. Internationally, Barker puts him on the same level as French superstar Zinedine Zidane, the man who helped France win the 1998 World Cup with a string of sensational performances.

In 1976, Ntsoelengoe played for a South African team selected on merit against an Argentinean select side. The South Africans crushed their South American opposition 5-0. After the game, Argentinean manager, Oscar Martinez, was asked whom he rated as South Africa’s top players. He rated Ntsoelengoe as the best. “That boy is a mint”, Martinez said. “He is almost a perfect footballer. He can dribble, he can shoot, he can attack, and he can defend.
“I can tell you why Ace stands head and shoulders above all your players”, the Argentine manager continued. “He is intelligent; he has great ability and he is strong and courageous. He plays like he has got a machine inside his body. He knows when to dribble and when to shoot.

“What I like about Ace is that he is good in the air, good on the ground and good everywhere you can think of. I cannot remember seeing the ball taken away from him”, Martinez added.

After his playing career was over, Ntsoelengoe was involved with Kaizer Chiefs, making valuable contributions to the club’s youth programme. He also assisted the national under-23 team.

Patrick Pule Ace Ntsoelengoe, the maestro, was a prodigious talent and arguably the most fascinating player to have come out of South Africa. Humble and reserved, he made an invaluable contribution to South African football.

Ace died of a heart attack on 8 May 2006 in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.