In the 1700s, the French had a leader by the name Napoleon Bonaparte, later known by his regnal name Napoleon I. Fast forward to the early 2000s when a football club in Soweto – called Orlando Pirates – would have a leader on the pitch nicknamed “Little Napoleon” or “Tso” – born Benedict Vilakazi.
The midfielder was born in Diepkloofon, Gauteng, on 8 September 1982. He earned the “Little Napoleon” moniker from former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns coach, Paul Dolezar. He was nicknamed “Tso” after Kaizer Chiefs legend Nelson “Teenage” Dlala.
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TSO VILAKAZI’S TIME AT ORLANDO PIRATES, THE RAPE CHARGES AND HIS ACQUITAL
Tso – who is famous for being one of the smallest professional international footballers during his time (standing at a mere 1.57 metres) – joined the Buccaneers in 1999. His time at Orlando Pirates spanned for a period of eight years, and he remains the highest scorer of all time for the club with 52 goals.
In 2005, while still at Pirates, his professional career was rocked by sex scandals; resulting in him being dragged to court on allegations of statutory rape. Vilakazi was accused of raping a 15-year-old. In the following year, he pleaded not guilty on both counts. He told the court he had a love affair with the girl, believing that she was over the age of consent, which is 16.
He was acquitted of the charge and the complainant later gave birth to his son. In addition, his marriage to Motshabi Vilakazi ended.
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INTERNATIONAL CAREER AND ILLNESS
Vilakazi played for Bafana Bafana at the 2006 African Nations Cup in Egypt. But, his sex scandal prohibited him from going through with his move to the Swedish side Djurgården.
In 2007, he was transferred to Danish Superliga club, Aalborg BK, where he was given a 5-year contract. Unfortunately, his European dream was short-lived as he lost three family members in a space of four months; his father and brother a month apart, and his sister two months later. As a result, the footballer made the decision to come back home to take care of his sister’s two children.
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The star joined Pretoria-based side Mamelodi Sundowns in 2008 and was loaned out to defunct club Mpumalanga Black Aces for the 2010/2011 PSL season. He then had a short spell at Black Leopards who parted ways with him because of a heart condition. He also played for Eswatini club Malanti Chiefs before moving to Botswana Premier League team Notwane FC in July 2013. In the same year he joined Botswana Meat Commission on a one-year contract.
‘I BLEW IT’
In 2020, Vilakazi appeared in an episode of I Blew It where he revealed how he spent his football millions recklessly.
“The salary [at Orlando Pirates] was about R18 000. My contract was ending towards the end of 2007. I was earning R10 000. When we played for Bafana Bafana, I was paid R39 000 and there was also an allowance.
“In Denmark, the signing fee was R350 000. The signing fee for Sundowns was R2 million and my salary was R1.2 million,” he said.
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Vilakazi revealed that he bought a house in Naturena, Soweto, for R500 000 after his divorce.
“When I was driving back from training from Sundowns, the traffic was killing me, so I bought a house in Kyalami Glen for about R2 million.The couch was for R50,000 and curtains for R160,000 and I had three televisions in the house.”
His friend said his downfalls were his houses, cars and women.
WHERE IS TSO VILAKAZI NOW?
The Citizen reported in 2021 that the former Bucs midfielder was attending a coaching course in Botswana.
Vilakazi has had a stint as the head coach of Orange Vaal Professionals, a team campaigning in the ABC Motsepe league.
The retired footballer admitted to his “love” for Pirates arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, a club he grew up supporting – Goal.com reported.
Vilakazi is now a football analyst on popular football podcast iDiski TV on YouTube hosted by Nkululeko Nkewu.