"If we get a draw against Spain I'll do my Jomo Dance, lots of them."

10 JUNE 02: “If
we get a draw against Spain I’ll do my Jomo Dance, lots of them.”

‘Black Prince’ dances into history

Saturday June 08, 2002 10:48
p.m. ET

DAEGU, South Korea (AP) —
His girth has thickened and his step has slowed. But the Black Prince is
dancing his way into sporting legend like no other South African before

African coach Jomo Sono performed the self-described
Jomo Dance — a unique combination of shuddering flesh, thrusting hips,
air punches and flexed muscles
— when his squad clinched its
first ever World Cup victory against Slovenia on Saturday.

longs to perform his Jomo Dance again if South Africa secures a draw against
Spain on Wednesday and defies the odds as Group B outsider to clinch a
berth in the competition’s second round.

    “If we
get a draw against Spain I’ll do my Jomo Dance, lots of them,” he guffawed
after South Africa’s 1-0 victory over Slovenia.

the result — and whatever the dance — Sono’s place in the South African
history books is assured.

    He took
over as coach from Portugal’s Carlos Quieroz in March when the squad was
divided, demoralized and defeated by lowly Mali in the quarterfinals of
the African Cup of Nations.

a combination of coaxing, cajoling and sheer commanding, Sono licked Bafana
Bafana – The Boys — back into shape.

    He brought
in talent from South Africa’s domestic league, including his own team Jomo
Cosmos, to water down the domination of European-based players. At the
same time he instilled new confidence in talent like Quinton Fortune, who
spent much of his time with Manchester United on the bench but who scored
a last minute penalty in South Africa’s 2-2 draw against Paraguay and set
up the winning goal against Slovenia.

team was down in Mali, down, down, down,” said Sono after Saturday’s victory.
“I’ve done a pretty good job lifting up the spirit of the players,” he

team was divided into groups and I tried to make them believe in themselves
that we are all South Africans, no matter what our color, we are all South

they are starting to believe.”

    In a
country still scarred by apartheid, Sono is insistent that black, mixed
race and white players should blend and mix both on and off the field.
He doesn’t want to interfere in personal friendships and antagonisms, but
at least they shouldn’t be dictated by color, he maintains.

    His multiracial
mix of assistants and advisers echoes that philosophy.

all, he insists, players must feel free and enjoy their game. When they
“dance” they score goals, he says.

brings what the players need,” said captain Lucas Radebe after Saturday’s
win. “There’s nothing complicated about him. You just go there and enjoy
the game and play normal football,” said Radebe, who has been capped 69
times and witnessed a long procession of coaches since South Africa rejoined
world sport 10 years ago after ending its policy of racial discrimination.

the apartheid era, Sono was South Africa’s outstanding top player. He started
with the Soweto club Orlando Pirates and went on to play for New York Cosmos,
Atlanta Chiefs, Colorado Caribous and Toronto Blizzard in the now-defunct
North American soccer league.

    His father,
Eric, played with the Pirates, and his son — also Eric — is a South African
under-20 international.

    He set
up his own team Jomo Cosmos 20 years ago — although he has yet to win
any major distinctions with it – and was caretaker coach of the national
squad for a brief period in 1998.

    He invented
the Jomo Dance for the occasions when his club won.

    To this
day, Sono is described as one of South Africa’s best ever players and still
retains his title as the Black Prince for his majestic qualities on pitch.

    Now 46
years old and weighing in at around 130 kilograms (estimates vary), he
prefers to stand on the touchlines rather than race around with his team
on the field – although he did a brief victory run after Saturday’s victory.

    But his
self-deprecating humor, one-line jokes and booming laugh is as lightning
as ever.

at a press conference about the problems of the heat in Daegu, he quipped
that South Africa had applied to the sports governing body FIFA to use
caps and umbrellas against the sun.

    And what
would happen if there was a plague of locusts, came the query.

    “We duck.
They fly,” came the reply.

    And what
about the South African player’s speed. Why do they sprint so fast?

what we do back home, we run in the jungle.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.