Walter Da Silva passes on
Brazilian-born Walter da Silva, the most prolific goalscorer in
South African soccer history and the coach at various times of
Soweto's "Big Three", Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka
Swallows, died on Thursday morning.
The 68 year-old lethal striker once scored 60 goals for
Highlands Park in a single season
and in a career smattered with glorious triumphs and excruciating
pain cultivated a habit of cheating death with regular monotony.
This time, however, the brave warrior succumbed to a heart
attack at the St Isabel Portuguese Home in Johannesburg after
suffering from a near-fatal stroke nine months ago.
Thirty seven years ago, after suffering a previous heart attack
immediately after playing and starring in a National Football
League game for Powerlines against Durban City in Nigel, Da Silva
was given a 25% chance of survival by the staff at the old
Johannesburg General Hospital in Hillbrow.
The brilliant striker, only 27 at the time, made a
near-miraculous recovery and continued playing for five years in
defiance of stern medical advice - before turning to soccer
management and coaching an assortment of local clubs during his 45
years in South Africa.
In 1975, Da Silva was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer,
again receiving the stark news that his death was imminent.
A nine-hour operation at the Johannesburg General Hospital, now
at new surroundings in Parktown, once again earned the inscrutable
Da Silva a life-saving reprieve.
Then three year ago, while walking from the fast food outlet he
ran with his wife in Turffontein to the nearby flat where he lived,
Da Silva was accosted by three gun-toting gangsters, one of whom
shot him in the temple from point-blank range - with a bullet
lodged in his skull.
Had he not moved his head with the panther-like agility and
intuitiveness that accounted for more than a few of his goals for
first division Brazilian clubs Fluminense and America and later for
Highlands Park, Powerlines and other South African teams, Da Silva
would certainly have died on the spot.
Da Silva was never far from danger in an eventful career that
took him to coaching positions in the Seychelles and Vietnam and
resulted in his kidnapping by a group of fanatical Swallows
supporters while he was coaching The Birds.
"The team was going through a bad patch," he recalled
laconically, "and the supporters didn't like losing."
Although Da Silva emerged as a seasoned and knowledgeable coach
in the firmament of South African soccer, playing a pivotal role in
the revival of The Buccaneers in the late 1980s when they won the
BobSave Super Bowl and emerged from a lengthy period in the
It was as a goalscorer supreme that he truly earned his
niche - and will be remembered for his uncanny ability in
capitilisng on the slightest of opportunities.