Full Name:           Bonginkosi ”Ace” Mnikathi
Date of Birth:       31 May 1946 (age 68)
Place of Birth:      Howick Pietermaritzburg
Playing Position:  Striker
1969                        Maritzburg City FC
1973-1974               South African Black XI
1973-1979               Zulu Royals United (now known as AmaZulu Football Club)
Bonginkosi Mnikathi(born 31 May 1946) commonly known as “Ace” is a former Zulu Royals United and South African Blacks XI football player, primarily playing as a striker.
Mnikathi started his soccer career at the age of 6 years old, when he began playing for a local team till he started playing for a senior team at the age of 15 years old. It was during this time that he picked up his nickname “Ace”. At the same time he was also playing cricket which he was very good in, but got discouraged and stopped because he could not play official games as only white people were allowed to play official games. At the age of 16 years old he represented Howick & District Football Association.
Mnikathi was born to Ellen and Mphuma Mnikathi in Howick Pietermaritzburg as the last born of 7 children. Mnikathi attended Roman Catholic Primary school, and then he enrolled at Jabulani Higher Primary and completed his Grade 10 at Howick Secondary.
At the age of 15 his older brother took him to go watch a soccer game in Howick. This team was short of a player, and Mnikathi decided to volunteer to match the number needed for the game. This was a senior team and the uniform was big on him, but that did not stop him from playing. This is where he got his nickname “Ace” during the first half of the game. This is where his talent was noticed as he was a fast player, had good control of the ball and dribbling the opposition players so effortlessly and owning the field.
At that time there were no professional players, a player would get picked by the community to be in a team because of their exceptional playing skills.
Mnikathi began his career with representing KwaZulu-Natal from 1967 -1972.In 1969 he started playing professionally for Maritzburg City FC and they won the Mainstay Cup final. After the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) was formed in 1971, Mnikathi joined the AmaZulu Royal United in 1972-1979. The team won the league in 1972. While Playing for AmaZulu Royal, in 1973-74 Mnikathi was recruited to play for the national team South African Black XI. During that year while playing for the South African Black XI he scored 5 goals in 6 matches. In 1980 Mnikathi retired from playing soccer and starting coaching.
After he stopped playing for the South African Black XI, they asked him to coach the rural areas such as Zululand, Sugarcane farms, and mines. He was not very keen on coaching, but was convinced by his former coach Clive Barker because of his great skills as a soccer player.
His coaching career started in 1981 at Vryheid with Silver Spurs. On his first year coaching them they got promoted to 3rd division, on the second year they got promoted to 2nd division, and on the 3rd year they got promoted 1st division this was now in 1983. In 1987 he stopped coaching them and return to his home town.
Mnikathi is married with 4 children, all girls and now lives in Hammersdale. When he retired from playing soccer in 1980, he joined the United Tobacco Company where he worked as a sales representative. After a year of working there he stopped and pursued coaching in 1981. After he stopped coaching in Vryheid he went back to United Tobacco Company as a Sales Supervisor for the KwaZulu-Natal and Transkei regions
In 1996 AmaZulu sent him a request to come help them with coaching senior teams, and he later became their club manager. He was very good at coaching these teams and helped them grow. During the time that he coached them, they played 10 games; won 7, lost 2 and 1 draw. After the 10 games, AmaZulu brought a new coach from Ghana which Mnikathi had to guide for a year. After that he started coaching junior teams to date which he enjoys doing, as he takes the youth of today very seriously as they are the future players.
Mnikathi is currently coaching junior teams in his community at Hammersdale. He is now a company owner in partnership with his friend and soccer legend Thulani Cedric Xulu commonly known as “Sugar-Ray”. This company is called Ace & Sugar Sports, “still developing”. Ace & Sugar Sports Company does coaching in soccer to junior teams and all the interested children around the community.
The objective of this company and vision is to aid in growing kids and teach them discipline. Protect them from drugs and criminality; keep them away from doing mischievous activities.
Mnikathi’s message to young soccer stars who envision themselves, as one day being soccer legends just like him. They should play soccer for the love of the game and respect it. It is a disciplined sport and will eliminate all bad habits and they should remember to always be humble.
Mnikathi’s last words were “As a player never think about the money, soccer first then money will follow.”- Ace Mnikathi