Luso Legend: Johnny de Sousa

Luso Legend: Johnny de Sousa

Ex-Vasco da Gama winger Johnny de Sousa takes you inside his memory bank and rolls back the years to recall a special era of South African football.

Johnny, please tell us about your younger days on the field and how your career began?
We started at Liesbeek Park at Under 16 level and then we eventually went on to Vasco’s Under 19s, which was the Castle league at the time. A lot of use Portuguese guys joined Vasco at the time and we became quite a strong side with likes of Sebba Rodrigues and myself.
In the first season we played in we won the SA Amateur competition and we beat a team called Fynlands in Natal. In that year we ended runner-up in the cup and runner-up in the league.
We came second to Edgemead and Carlos [das Neves] played against us. We started playing together for Portugal on Sundays and Carlos came across to Vasco. We gelled quickly and started dominating the league.
How long did it take to progress to first team football?
We were playing Under 19 and then we got a chance to play in the second team at Vasco, then an opportunity for me to play for Vasco first team as a substitute.
We played against Camps Bay with the likes of Glen Jordon and they were the best side at the time, and I remember I came on and scored a goal. I remember because they became champions. That was the beginning of it, and we started dominating and being the best side in the Western Province. We were the strongest amateur team in South Africa.Johnny-de-Sousa-holding-himself
What happened to those players you played alongside?
Nearly that whole squad went to play professional soccer. Craig Le Grange went on to play for Kazier Chiefs, Manu Jansens went to Cape Town Spurs, Carlos (Das Neves) went to Hellenic, Sandro de Geouveia went on to captain the Namibian national side. You can go on and on.
The bulk of that side all progressed in their career. The only regret I have is if that side had been around today it would have been a different story for all of us.
Did you go anywhere after this era?
I went overseas to a team that was in the Second Division in Portugal, to a side called Uniao. Those days they had sand fields in the second division there, and they only had one grass field in Madeira. But in those days all the teams had to play on that one same field.
I was 21-years-old and was very uncomfortable on the surface. We didn’t enjoy playing on sand, and it was a completely different thing for me.
What was the highest level you reached with Vasco?
We couldn’t go further than we were. That is why all the players started going to Cape Town Spurs because a link was formed between the two clubs.
They took the bulk of the Vasco players there. That is where we progressed. Spurs were in the second division and within two years we took them to the main league. We held our own until we won the league in 1995.
What are you involved in these days on a sporting level?
I play competitive bowls now. Most of the guys I played with now play for Vasco’s Over 40 side. When I turned 40 I was still fit, so I joined Bothasig and I scored 18 goals in that season. From a relegated side we finished second on the log.
That was my last season because I had a car accident and a knee operation. Eight months later I played again and I did the same thing to my knee and that is when I decided not to play again.
Then I started playing bowls and I enjoyed it. It is a competitive game and that is what I enjoy now.
Who was best player you played against?
That would be a Sundowns player; he was a youngster coming through. He ended up playing for South Africa. Joas Mogalego. He was about 17 years-old at the time and he marked me tightly. We beat Sundowns in the semi-final of the Castle Lager Cup and in the second game they assigned this youngster to me. He man marked me that game, he was so strong and he kicked me. We ended up losing 2-1 on aggregate and they advanced to the final.
What stands out in that game was when I scored the goal. It was a double-header and so I went to the Pirates fans because they were supporting us. When I scored I went up to them and I did the Roger Milla dance. It was just after the 1990 World Cup so that dance was the flavour of the day (Laughing).
Who was your best coach?
Probably Sergio dos Santos for Vasco and Spurs. He was a player’s coach. Thinking about it, Gavin Hunt’s first job was at Vasco. I am not surprised he is one of the top coaches in South Africa. He has got one of those things where you can just play for him.
What you see is what you get, very straight and a very humble person. Sergio and Gavin are probably the two best coaches I have worked with.