The true story of how soccer legend Jomo Sono “abandoned” his bride on their wedding day to head off to a game of soccer has found its way into a television commercial.
It was February 10 1979, just moments after he had said his “I do” at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Soweto, South Africa when he stunned guests with an announcement that he was needed at the Rand Stadium.
His team, then Orlando Pirates, were 2-0 down against Highlands Park. So while the confetti settled around his new wife, Gail, Sono jumped into a car with his father-in-law and made his way to the soccer stadium.
“Imagine how it felt — it was the happiest day of our lives and then my father-in-law gave me the news . . . My heart sank. I knew I had to make a choice,” said Sono.
He arrived in time to join the team on the field for the second half of the game, “managed to create” three goals and scored one himself.
Pirates won 4-2 and Sono was able to return to a delayed wedding reception, buoyed by the victory and by getting back to his radiant bride, who appeared to have taken the disruption in her stride.
Their wedding-day recreation for Telkom Mobile, under the banner of 8ta, has scooped the award for best TV sport commercial at the Sport Industry Awards ceremony.
A publicist for Telkom Mobile, Nothemba Noruwana, said: “We were looking for a way to demonstrate our commitment to, and passion for, soccer. During a brainstorm, the story of how Jomo Sono left his wedding reception to join his team came up.”
The 90-second clip was shot over two days and features actor Yonda Thomas as the former soccer star, who narrates the tale to viewers while seated on a couch next to Gail.
Said Sono in the advertisement: “Every time I scored a goal, I would do the same moves as Pele — you know, with one fist in the air, but on my wedding day I decided to go two: one for me, one for my wife. It was celebrated as a commitment, but in truth it was madness,” he said of leaving his wife to fend for herself at the wedding reception.
Five years after he played such a leading role in beating Highlands Park, Sono bought the club. Highlands Park, whose headquarters were in Balfour Park in northern Johannesburg, just off Louis Botha Avenue where a shopping centre now stands, was one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the old whites-only National Football League.
Buying such a prominent white club was a “phenomenal thing at the time”, said soccer writer Mark Gleeson. It was still 11 years before the end of apartheid.
Sono changed the club’s name to Jomo Cosmos, named after the new owner and the New York club he played for in the now defunct North American Soccer League.
However, defeat today in the penultimate round of the National First Division (NFD) season could prove a death knell for Jomo Cosmos‚ as the once-proud former champions sit on the brink of tumbling out of the professional ranks.
While Jomo Sono has consistently insisted his outfit will bounce back to former glories‚ never deviating from the message‚ they are a far cry from the team that won the league title in 1988‚ took several cup trophies and were the first South African club to make an impact in continental club competition. Cosmos went as far as the semi-final of the African Cup Winners’ Cup in a heroic campaign in 1993.
But they are now staring at the stark reality of being relegated from the NFD‚ possibly joining the likes of fellow former top-flight regulars Manning Rangers‚ Moroka Swallows and Santos in slipping into obscurity. Cosmos are in 14th place‚ just one place and one point above the bottom two positions‚ and must beat Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhadila FC (TTM) at home at Makhulong Stadium if they are to move clear of danger.
TTM from Venda‚ however‚ are very much in the promotion chase in fourth place and the Tembisa clash is a “must-win” for them. Cosmos finish the season away on May 5 at Witbank Spurs‚ who are already relegated and will end last. Cosmos have won just seven of 28 league games this season and are a far cry from the side who yoyo-ed between two top-flight and NFD season over the last decade. They are even further removed from the side of the 1980s and 1990s‚ who were regular challengers for both league and cup honours.
Reported financial problems have seen the squad decimated in recent times and Sono has been forced to sell talent to keep going‚ and not been able to unearth any gems to take their place. He had a well-founded reputation in the 1980s for discovering stars but with the proliferation of academies and much more structure at youth level‚ sitting in his car on the side of a dusty field spotting footballing diamonds and launching them from obscurity is now but a romantic notion. — TimesLive.co.za.