By 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…………..