Siphiwe Mkhonza attempted suicide three times during his time as a Kaizer Chiefs player

FOOTBALL Siphiwe Mkhonza attempted suicide three times during his time as a Kaizer Chiefs player

Mark Kinyanjui 19:00 - 14.03.2024

The late former South African footballer attempted to take his own life three times while a Kaizer Chiefs player.

Former South Africa and Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Siphiwe Mkhonza died after battling an illness earlier this month, but what most people may not know is that he nearly took his life away much earlier than that.

Mkhonza tried to take his own life more than once while he was playing for the country’s most supported club

Speaking in an interview with IOL earlier, Mkhonza has revealed the pressures that came with donning a Chiefs shirt drove him on the brink of suicide three times.

“When I got to Chiefs, I was excited. Siphiwe signed with Chiefs. Now, you are famous, all of a sudden. I want to believe that my dad (Joseph Mkhonza, a former Chiefs star from the eighties) was proud,” 

“But for about four, five, even six years we never spoke. I did not feel sad (about the lack of father/son relationship) but I missed out on the guidance. I missed out on that remote which would have said to me ‘Chiefs is not (Golden) Arrows. It is not (Bloemfontein) Celtic.”

And so it was that when pressure came to bear on him, Mkhonza had no clue how to deal with it.

Mkhonza grappled with the demands and criticisms at Chiefs, which took a toll on his mental well-being. 

Mkhonza expressed his conflicting emotions on the field, admitting he wanted to play but also feared making mistakes. Despite receiving support from chairman Kaizer Motaung, the arrival of coach Ernst Middendorp led to a deterioration in his situation.

Mkhonza found Middendorp's aggressive coaching style lacking in empathy and sought to leave the club as a result, but it gave him his first suicidal thought.

“The first time I tried to commit suicide was after I made a mistake against (Jomo) Cosmos and Calvin Kadi went on to score. 

“We still won that match, but afterwards the coach (Middendorp) told me I was not a Chiefs player. I thought I was okay, but when I got home – I was staying alone at the time – I felt like I was the black sheep of the defence because we conceded goals every time I played.

“I had no support. So, I got home from Orkney (where the match against Cosmos was played) and I locked the house up, switched the phone off and took so many pills. 

“I fainted. But I woke up in the morning and I was like ‘I am alive, this did not happen’. I did not try to get help, and I did not tell anyone (about the attempted suicide).”

Months later, Mkhonza scored an own goal against Platinum Stars. With no psychological help, he found himself alone and under pressure, stressed out, feeling the best way out was to end it all.

“But I am scarred and bruised. This was too much and so with the stress I have; I tried the second time. This time I cut my veins here on my arms – with a sharp knife. Remember those knives called Rambo, I had it and I used it.

“I thought it was white people who slit their wrists, black people hang themselves.”

After attempting to end his life and fainting, Mkhonza found himself alone with blood in his sitting room. Despite the severity of his injuries, he chose not to seek medical attention for fear of repercussions from his club, Kaizer Chiefs.

Physio Dave Milner noticed the bloodied bandages and informed the club doctor, Phil Maepa, who took on a supportive role. However, despite Maepa's efforts, Mkhonza made a third suicide attempt.

“The third one was the strangest. I (deliberately) knocked a tree,” Mkhonza recalls. “Back then I was driving a Golf five GTI (the new ones then).”

The lead up to the third suicide attempt was typical local football story. A player reads in the papers that he is being sent to train with the junior teams but the club denies it, only for them to later instruct him to do exactly that.

Bobby Motaung informed Mkhonza that his contract was up for renewal and instructed him to train with the juniors. 

Refusing to comply, Mkhonza, considering himself a national team player, rejected the directive, feeling it would undermine his status. He adamantly stated that if he were to train with the youth team, he might as well end his career with Kaizer Chiefs.

Muhsin Ertugral was the coach then and in one pre-season session he formed two sides – the one that was clearly going to be his regular starting eleven and the reserves. Mkhonza was with the reserves and captained them.

During a match where his team was dominating, Mkhonza was instructed to swap positions with another player by coach Muhsin.

As the swap occurred, Mkhonza's team conceded, leading to Muhsin swearing at him and questioning his attitude. Feeling disrespected, Mkhonza confronted Muhsin, asserting that he was not a youngster.

This altercation marked the beginning of the end of his time at Kaizer Chiefs, as the coach wanted him out despite the chairman's desire to keep him. Mkhonza chose not to participate in the afternoon training session, signaling his departure from the club, and thought of killing himself for the third time.

“As I was driving home, negativity came in, and when I got to Ruimsig I went straight into the tree. I was driving about 80 or 90km per hour and the airbag hit me so hard I fainted.

“I thought I was dead but then I heard people shouting, some saying who I was. Can you imagine what it would have been if it was during this time of social media? I heard the sirens of the ambulance and they took me to hospital where I recovered.”

He left Chiefs thereafter and his career took on a journeyman route as he had yearly stints at all of SuperSport United, Maritzburg United, AmaZulu and Black Leopards.

He became more popular after he hung up his boots and joined the SABC as a football analyst, his township speak a hit with the viewers. He was in that position until he breathed his last on Tuesday at he age of 45.

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