South Africa


Tearful Doctor Khumalo hails Clive Barker’s legacy at funeral of Bafana coach

Tearful Doctor Khumalo hails Clive Barker’s legacy at funeral of Bafana coach
Clive Barker and Lucas Radebe during the Lucas Radebe Benefit match between the Bafana Bafana All Stars and the Lucas Radebe Invitational XI played at Kings Park Stadium in Durban, South Africa. Barker made Radebe Bafana captain. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu Gallo Images)

Former Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker was remembered at his funeral on Thursday as a dedicated professional who always had time for his players and community.

South Africa’s football fraternity betrayed the legendary coach Clive Barker by not honouring him while he was alive, Doctor Khumalo said during Barker’s funeral on Thursday.

Khumalo was a midfield maestro who was one of the shining stars in Barker’s Bafana Bafana squad that won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations champions title on home soil.

Barker died in a Durban hospital aged 78 on Saturday, 10 June after battling Lewy body dementia, which had taken a toll on his body, especially in the final year of his life.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tributes pour in for former Bafana coach Clive Barker

The KwaZulu-Natal government gave him an official provincial funeral, held at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban on Thursday morning. It was attended by political heavyweights, sports personalities and family and friends of the Barkers. 

Many of those in attendance said that although they were saddened by Barker’s death, they were relieved that he was now in a better place, free of the pain that had taken its toll on his life.

While some of his teammates from the 1996 championship-winning team surrounded Barker’s coffin, Khumalo broke down in tears towards the end of his speech.

Khumalo said that, unlike other coaches, Barker allowed the players to express themselves on the field of play as long as they worked towards the success of the team.

“This was the most successful coach of the national team. But we have betrayed him by failing to honour him while he was still alive. He had created icons by making us winners, by enabling all the players in the 1996 generation to play overseas. But we have betrayed him as a country,” said Khumalo.

He added that Barker had been like a father to his players, helping them to deal with pressure on the field and in their personal lives.

Barker’s son John said the family appreciated the outpouring of grief and respect shown towards Barker.

Gavin Barker, John Barker and Yvonne Barker during the memorial service of Clive Barker at Olive Convention Centre on 15 June 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

Football supporter Mama Joy singing and celebrating Clive Barker’s life at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, 15 June 2023, (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

The personal touch

Barker was described as a harbinger who foresaw the new and free South Africa even in the volatile 1970s.

Sandile Zungu, the owner of Premier Soccer League side AmaZulu FC, said: “It was unthinkable for a white person to be in a township in the ’70s, but Clive Barker was always in Umlazi, with his players.” 

He said that when Barker took charge of Bafana Bafana, he was able to unite players of all races behind the national colours. 

No other South African coach, whether local or international, has been able to achieve the feat of winning the continental championship and qualifying for the Fifa World Cup (1998).

Mark Williams, the former Bafana Bafana striker who scored both goals when South Africa beat Tunisia 2-0 to lift the continental championship in 1996, said the country had lost a great coach and a great individual.

Japhet Zwane, a midfielder who was coached by Barker at Manning Rangers and at AmaZulu FC, said Barker was instrumental in improving his playing to the point that he was called up for Bafana Bafana and earned a contract with a top club in Russia.

“It was the personal touch. Whenever I came back from Russia, I spoke to him about the challenges I was facing. He was always there to encourage and motivate me to work very hard and endure some of the hardships that came with playing in a hostile foreign country.

“Some years back, there was a funeral of my stepmother in Ladysmith and I had gone there. I then got a call from Barker saying he was coming to the funeral but had gotten lost. I had to come and pick him [up] and everyone at home was surprised to see him there. That is the kind of person he was,” said Zwane.

Barker was described as a humble big man and the sentiment was not only shared by those in the football fraternity.

KZN MEC Siboniso Duma hands over a South African flag to Yvonne Barker, wife of Clive Barker, at the funeral in Durban, 15 June 2023. (Photo: Phumlani Thabethe)

A local icon

Even people in Glenwood, a suburb in Durban where the Barker family lived for decades, said they felt the loss at a personal level.

Lawrence Ngcobo (54), who has worked at a Glenwood service station for a number of years, said he had many interactions with Barker.

“I am a Sundowns fan. But when Clive Barker came to fill up his car we would have an animated debate with him about everything football. He often said current players cannot emulate the achievement of the players of 1996 because those players played with passion and commitment and they were fitter and stronger.

“At some time he was not happy with the performance of AmaZulu FC and he said just as much. When he was here we spoke for a long time. He was a very good man. May his beautiful soul rest in peace,” Ngcobo said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ex-Bafana coach Clive Barker’s infectious enthusiasm and player pride made him one of the greats

Wendy Prinsloo (62), who runs the Verve Hair Studio, said she had known Barker, his wife Yvonne, their children and grandchildren for all of the 16 years her studio has been in operation.

“He often came here for his haircut. The last I saw of him was last year when he came back from the hospital. I went to his home to cut his hair there because he was still recovering. I heard that he went back to hospital two days after I cut his hair.

“He was a soft, gentle man, always asking about how is my leg and encouraging me to treat it. Yvonne and her grandchildren were here in the salon yesterday for grooming so that they are ready for his funeral. It was very sad, but Yvonne was handling it courageously. I guess that’s how Clive would have liked it,” Prinsloo said.

Edwin Kadira, a Zimbabwean national who works at a Chinese takeaway store in Glenwood, said Barker often passed through to have coffee and speak to people.

“He loved to chat to people, all kinds of people. At some stage, I teased him that our national team beat Bafana Bafana with four goals. He shot back that this did not happen during his era as a coach of Bafana Bafana. He loved his game, he loved his football,” Kadira said.

Sboniso Duma, KZN MEC for Economic Development and leader of Government Business, told mourners that the country had lost one of its best ambassadors for sport’s role in racial integration.

He said the government would build a sporting academy which will be named after Barker. Its aim would be to coach sport stars able to compete against the best in the world.

Danny Jordaan, the president of the South African Football Association, said that during Barker’s reign as Bafana Bafana coach the team travelled to England and was stationed in Manchester.

“There was a special request that Barker and other players must come and address youngsters at a poor black-dominated neighbourhood of Manchester, where youth were battling with drug addiction.

“Barker left the preparation for the upcoming game and went to address these kinds. This morning I got a call from the person who made that request, who asked me to send their thanks and condolences to the Barker family,” said Jordaan. DM


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