Tribute to the Legend Abdulhaque “Blikkies” Bismilla


aslam-khotaBy ASLAM KHOTA This is a story of a man where you just did not want to script an ending – because it would signal an end to a special era. Mr Abdulhaque ‘Blikkies’ Bismilla strove against all odds, performed against all expectation and beat the many odds to inspire and coach for most of his professional life as a teacher.

For as long as we know him and unlike his contemporaries, Mr Bismilla found time to coach after hours and on weekends for the sake of his ‘boys’. Money never mattered. His life as an English, Afrikaans and a physical education teacher spanned an amazing forty years.

In his CV under the heading; Goal, he wrote; “to develop, transform and assist others where possible.” He lived that rule to the letter, until his final breath. Blikkies is in the calibre of the late Saeed Abdul Hague, an administrator who was childless but gave his all to other people’s children. Mr Bismilla was the last of the truly dedicated teachers. When it comes to schools sport for the last thirty years, he had no equal. Now with his sad and sudden demise through a massive heart attack, there will be a huge void and the concern is will it ever be filled? The track record of the lack of interest and participation and formal organisation in school sport is so poor, in Lenasia particularly, I fear that Mr Bismilla’s passing will take on even more tragic proportions.

I hope I’m wrong. ‘Sir’ as he was popularly addressed, even by his former students, was born in Alexandra in Johannesburg in 1946. He attended Potchefstroom High and later matriculated through UNISA. He completed a teacher’s diploma at the Transvaal College of Education where he majored in Phys/Ed and History. He married Rabia, a practising nurse and they moved to Lenasia. I asked her how or why did her husband get stuck with the unusual nick-name. She remembers a group of boys doing Afrikaans set works back in Potch. They each took the name of the characters and ‘Blikkies’ stuck ever since!

Mr Bismilla travelled long distances and began his teaching career in Potchefstroom High, then moved to Roodepoort, where he made his mark as a coach and motivator. He travelled from Lenasia for seven years and transformed that school into winners in soccer, cricket and athletics. He finally took up a post at Nirvana High. Roodepoort’s loss was Lenz’s’ gain and his presence impacted positively, as their teams and individuals won many accolades in soccer, cricket and table-tennis. It seemed he did a full tour of Lenz schools as he moved from Nirvana, to Harmony, Lenasia Secondary, Topaz, Lenz South, Alpha, Greyville primary and in the last four months at Lenz Public School.

Blikkies brought joy to youngsters. He had the uncanny ability to take an ordinary lad and turn him into a winner. In his four decades as a cricket coach and manager, we witnessed the phenomenon. His major successes were primarily with the juniors and he was brilliant for them as they held on to his every word. There is a long list of boys who went on to achieve higher honours. Ahmed Omar mentions boys from his era in the early and heady days after unification. But ‘Sirs’ impact was immense in Lenasia and in the greater Johannesburg area. Jack and Hussain Manack, Agie Dinat, Rustom Khan, Imran Munshi, Nazir Dindar, Iqbal Khan, Mohamed Moosajee, Amit Bagoon, Mohamed Sarang and countless others took Transvaal cricket from the doldrums to unprecedented heights. Former provincial star Ismail Akoojee recalls Bismilla’s ability to motivate and under his captaincy at Potch United, scored 6 centuries of which three were in consecutive innings in one season. Akoojee attributes without question the success to Blikkies’ presence.

The teacher held coaching certificates in cricket soccer, athletics, hockey, gymnastics and tennis. He represented Transvaal schools from primary to high, captained the under-19 team, SA schools and the SA Colleges teams. He even played for Transvaal ‘A’ and ‘B’ in the SACBOC and SACB eras. He played cricket for Potch, Kohinoor and Krugersdorp Old Boys. It is no wonder that he was a noted deep thinker of the game. He served on the board of Bluebells football club for 17 years. Coached their under-12 and 16 teams, refereed, umpired at premier league level and managed provincial teams in national competitions. You can say he was a true all-rounder! It was a full sporting life indeed. The accolades and achievements are unmatched. His only son Zahir said to me that his father told him more about the achievements of others under his wing than his own. He was modest about his own abilities, but was an excellent leg-spinner, a stubborn middle-order batsman and gritty full-back in soccer and played a good game of tennis too. In 1985 he helped raise funds at Nirvana High to ensure his student protégé Jack Manack could fulfil his dream to play in England.

Blikkies’ fantastic record as manager/coach came to the fore when he guided the Transvaal Nuffield team to their best finish in 15 years in the annual national cricket week. He received many acknowledgements and praise for his sterling results. It was ironic that the first real appreciation had come during the ‘development’ era. Lenasia Spurs Cricket Club was the only organisation in Lenasia to have honoured him at a function in 1995. He was open-hearted but possessed a streak of stubbornness too. Very much his own man, he generally wanted to do things his own way. I noted that in his last twenty years he preferred to work on his own, set his own programs and rarely mixed with authority.

One such incident I can recall was when Justice Mohamed Jajbhai, then chairman of the Gauteng Cricket Board needed recommendations for honourary positions to the board. I mentioned Blikkies and approached him on behalf of the board. He flatly refused ‘positions’ and a seat in the long-room and said he preferred to work on the field. There is a lovely anecdote to this man who loved and talked sport endlessly. Once, a few members of a Jamaat visited his home to invite him to a programme at a local mosque. The story goes that after their short talk, he engaged them for even longer and proudly mentioned the names of all the boys and girls who attained high honours through his expert hands! ‘Sir’ was laid to rest on 23rd May and fellow teachers and many, many sporting colleagues and students of all denominations past and present thronged the cemetery to pay their last respects. A fitting tribute will be to name one of the many facilities in Lenasia after Blikkies Bismilla. I am certain that the soccer fraternity will have an equally if not more informative tale to tell of Blikkies’ achievements. There are many stories and anecdotes and more tributes will follow, I am sure. The Blikkies legacy will live forever. Long Live! Daughters, Tasneem and Leila, son Zahir, five grand-children and wife Rabia survive him. END.

On my side I would also like to add a special tribute to this great man On Saturday the community of Lenasia and well the sporting community as a whole lost a legend as Mr Abdulhaq “Blikkies” Bismillah sadly passed away. The Sporting community has again lost one of the individuals who in the past has motivated many sportsman that I firmly believe would have succeeded at the top level but were sadly denied by Politics. Blikkies also sacrificed his time and effort to motivate youngsters from all walks of life to excel and succeed in fullfilling their dreams. Blikkies Bismillah you will be sorely missed. Now the guys from Lenz High, Mamad Kaloo,Husain Mayet,Ebrahim Moosajee, Yusufee Bhamjee from Spur Rosebank., you guys can add to some of the quotes by the legendary Mr Bismillah. Il leave you with a few…………..

When I went to High School on my first meeting with Blikkies he asked me. “Boy, Who are you Boy? I said “Sir Im Zahier Mayets from Lesco’s nephew and Big Mooses cuzzy. He said to me ” Boy, Zahier Mayet is a talented footballer. You are a trickster. You look more like an Alipor Elvis
Many years later I was playing in the Pietersburg Tournament for Dynamos. There I was ,Silver Boots,Alice Band Long Hair. Blikkies called me and said “Mayet ,You havent Changed Boi. You went from Alipor Elvid to the Alipor BONO” -Naseem “Swoosh” Mayet
Jack Manack was walking with Blikkies during a game. Blikkies said to him, “Boy look closely. I am the next Dickie Bird”
Blikkies was famous for making us do frog jumps and jogging. He often used to say. “You know boy. When you jogging boy. You dont have to get tired boy, because you breathing in an out”
“When an Alipor falls in love, His sporting career is over”
Some more Blikkies quotes by Yusuf Bhamjee
“You know boy – Bhamjee is a trickster. He and Ziyaad Patel will burn this school out”
About some footballer – “This boy has got %#$ing talent but then he met this girl and now his mind is f&^$ed up”
After I had an argument about a disallowed goal in a five a side game in Standard six – I had the audacity to call him a Chor He simply said to me “Boy – Your Father is a chor” He then banned me from 5 a side for the rest of the year. Two days later he felt me sorry an lifted the ban.Simply saying “ no discipline will not be tolerated” we then went on to beat alpha primary school 8-0 the next day when they did a school visit.
After doing frog jumps for two full periods – numb legs, couldn’t walk – Mohamed Lorgat cried out “Allah Paak”Blikkies just said : “God won’t even help you now boy” and proceeded to cane us.
After playing for Achievers winning all our games for the season scoring 141 goals including a 17-0 thrashing of greyville city – we lost in the final of the Roshnee tournament to Swaraj 1-0.The lads were upset – I am sure I saw some tears in Freddies eyes.Monday morning with a smug look on his face – He told me “ Boy achievers achieved F&^%all this weekend”
I remember playing for Lenz High in std six against the best of Lenz Primary Schools – Some of those primary school okes like Amit Gandabhai and Tyrone had bigger beards than I have now.I was having a kak game playing centre midfield we were one down and Gandabhai was all over me. I couldn’t do anything. At half time he moved me to left back and took Dean Naidoo off. I though this toppie is crazy – I never played left back in my life.But he said “ Boy Trust me”We ended up winning 3 – 1 . I made all 3 goals down the left cos he took Gandabhai out of the game for me.After the game he told me “Boy – I was coaching Bells while you were in your fathers sack
” These are some of the words and quotes by the Legendry Mr Bismillah. Sir………You will forever be remembered by sportmen that grew up in front of you……….and difficult to replace.. Uncle Bhai Gora extends condolences to the Bismilla family on the loss of Mr Bismillah. Our thoughts are with you