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Jomo Sono - South African football legend

  • Story Highlights
  • Jomo Sono is one of the greatest footballers South Africa has ever produced
  • Sono's international career never took off because of South Africa's exclusion
  • He was major success at Orlando Pirates before playing in the United States
  • Sono also coached South African national side to the 2002 World Cup finals
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(CNN) -- With the 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa next year CNN takes a look at one of the greatest talents South African football has ever produced, Jomo Sono.

Jomo Sono's international career never took off because of South Africa's exclusion from world football.

Jomo Sono's international career never took off because of South Africa's exclusion from world football.

Matsilela Ephraim Sono was born in 1955 in Soweto, but his career as an international player never got off the ground as South Africa were officially expelled by world governing body FIFA in 1976 during the apartheid regime in the country.

The Black Prince, as he was known, made his mark as a player of legendary skill who was denied a world stage through circumstances beyond his control.

Sono was a midfield general and renowned for his dribbling and accurate passing -- but it is difficult to say how he would have faired against the best players in the world as he was not given the opportunity.
Watch CNN's interview with Sono. Video

"He was one of the first South Africans to play overseas where he played for the New York Cosmos alongside Pele," South African football writer Mo Allie told CNN.

"He played at a time when South Africa was internationally isolated so there was no opportunity for players to showcase their skills to the world.

"But he was fortunate in that he got the opportunity to go to the U.S. and he did very well there, playing alongside greats such as Pele."

After accomplishing everything that he set out to do at home club Orlando Pirates, Sono starred for the New York Cosmos, Colorado Caribous and Toronto Blizzard in the United States.

On his return to South Africa after his retirement, Sono bought the Highlands Park Club in Johannesburg in 1982 and renamed it Jomo Cosmos in honor of his old team in New York, before becoming coach of the South African national side.

"So many of today's South African players would have heard a lot about Jomo Sono but many wouldn't have seen him in action apart from a few snippets of TV highlights," Allie added.

"They will identify more with him as a coach because he led the national side in the 1998 African Cup of Nations and took them to the 2002 World Cup finals."


Sono has proved to be as astute off the pitch as he was on it and has become a successful businessman, owning a number of companies around Johannesburg.

And the current South African squad will be looking to carry on his footballing legacy when they attempt to become the first African team to win the World Cup next year.

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