Not even Birds’ minority shareholders can deny the passion of Leon Prins
LEON Prins once showed up unannounced at the Business Day offices in Rosebank and boy, was he livid.
He took strong exception to a scathing column I wrote about his beloved Moroka Swallows and he was so incensed he decided to give me a piece of his mind in person.
After signing in at reception without my knowledge, I’m told he stormed towards our floor like an enraged bull charging at a matador’s red cape.
He scanned the newsroom for this cheeky man from the rolling hills of Tsomo Mission and when he finally saw me, he walked towards my desk and then, strangely enough, he just stood behind me and burned holes on the back of my head without uttering a word.
Lord knows how long he stood there and it wasn’t until the chief sub-editor, Tlou Legodi, walked up to me and whispered in my ear: "Don’t look now but Leon Prins is standing behind you and he’s either going to kiss you or kick the living crap out of you. And my money is on the latter…"
I took one look at the fuming face and decided to usher the riled Swallows chairman out of the newsroom to avoid disturbing colleagues who were on deadline.
Colleagues Sam Mkokeli, Ernest Mabuza and Siseko Njobeni thought it would be a good idea to loiter around us with intent, just in case this Prins got it into his head to turn up the heat outside.
He produced a photocopy of the offending column and he’d taken the liberty of circling all the sentences he felt were too hard for him to stomach. Suffice to say, my byline was probably the only part of the column that managed to escape the furious red circles.
One sentence, in particular, rubbed him up the wrong way most, judging by the red pen marks around it.
Oh, that sentence read: "It seems these flightless Birds cannot survive a day without incident and the litany of schoolboy howlers emanating from their camp have only served to confirm suspicion that the chaos at the club rivals that at the Noord Street taxi rank." Boy, did this cheeky sentence anger the man!
Showing up at someone’s work unannounced and then going on a tirade is the sort of thing that this man from the rolling hills of Tsomo Mission does not take kindly to.
But I was surprisingly calm — trust me, I still ask myself how I managed to do it — and I actually listened to him.
So rather than annoy me without end, those insanely tense few minutes actually gave me an idea of what Moroka Swallows means to the man.
Surely the impulsive vehemence that led him to our building on that crazy afternoon was not the act of a man who does not give a damn about the club?
His many critics question his style of management and it is no exaggeration to suggest that he probably has more detractors than supporters in his corner. His constant run-ins with the club’s minority shareholders and the frequent protests by an irate section of what remains of Swallows’ dwindling support base also can’t be helping matters.
The minority shareholders have tried unsuccessfully to force him out for many moons now and there are no prizes for guessing who will be blamed if the struggling Birds are finally grounded at the end of the season this week.
Prins said a few months ago his minority shareholders have had it in for him since he joined the Birds 16 years ago, and have a healthy appetite for coming up ‘‘with all sorts of wild allegations" to strengthen their case.
The club’s penultimate fixture of the season will be away to Ajax Cape Town tonight and then they wrap up the campaign with a home assignment against Bloemfontein Celtic.
They will need the soccer gods to be in an incredibly generous mood with results elsewhere if they are to complete their annual Houdini act and once again escape relegation. But if they are not able to maintain the streak and avert disaster after the dust has settled on Saturday afternoon, it’s safe to say this little old column will be the least of Prins’ problems.
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