In a world of self-styled soccer experts, Jeff Isaacs, 63, from Westridge, is the real deal.
The well-travelled soccer coach is one of the most experienced and decorated grassroots football mentors around.
Regarded by many as a masterful tactician, he has been involved with various clubs affiliated to the Mitchell’s Plain Local Football Association (MPLFA) and elsewhere over the years.
So it’s hardly surprising that clubs often call on his expertise and that many young players had benefited from his soccer brain.
With decades-long experience, from when he first started kicking the ball in the 1960s to as recently as 2019 when he was part of FC Tafelzught’s coaching set up, it is no exaggeration to say he has seen it all, when it comes to grassroots football.
His credentials speak for themselves.
Isaacs looked relaxed, despite a recent health scare, when the Plainsman popped in for a short visit.
Flipping through his files, his story sounds like it’s from the history books… and he tells it with pride and great nostalgia.
He says he was first bitten by the football bug when he was still a youngster in District Six, in the 1960s.
“I started off at Arials FC. We played our matches with Alliance in Rondebosch. In 1969 I co-founded a club called Bloemhof Wanderers, also in District Six. We played our matches at Metropolitan in Bonteheuwel. I played there until 1973.
Isaacs joined Sea Point Swifts. which celebrates its centenary this year, as a promising 17-year-old. He described his days at Swifts as one of the most successful early on in his career. This, he said, was because the side was at its peak, winning many trophies along the way.
“In that same year I joined Swifts, I went on to represent Metropolitan Union as a senior player in the Board competition (the old version of today’s InterLFA competition).
“In my first two years at Swifts — 1973 and 1974 — we won back-to-back league titles. Metropolitan also won the Board competition in 1974,” he said.
That was also the year in which he got interested in coaching. And, as a result, he began coaching and playing at the same time. He played until 1983, when he decided to coach full time.
“In 1985 I started coaching Swifts’ seniors, and the side won the league and gained promotion to the super league, which was the highest level of grassroots football,” he said.
Upon moving to Mitchell’s Plain in 1989, he found a new football home, in the form of Parkhurst United and immediately got involved in coaching their juniors.
The club’s name was later changed to Parkhurst Ambassadors, following a merger with Ambassadors, in 1989. He stayed there until 1997, before moving over to Bayhill United, as their new under-17 coach.
From then on, Isaacs moved between clubs, gaining valuable experience coaching the seniors and juniors. He gained the respect of his colleagues too, as he turned some rough diamonds into serious players.
He also guided current Coke Cup champions Woodlands United to successive finals on two previous occasions.
His coaching astuteness didn’t go unnoticed and, in 2004 was in charge of the Western Cape team that won gold in SA Games in East London. In fact, he won back-to-back golds as they took another one in Durban, the following year.
“Before that, I coached the WP under-14 team at the 1998 and 1999 Transnet Games in Durban and the Vaal Triangle respectively. We went on to win both competitions,” he said.
Bayhill United executive committee member and Mitchell’s Plain LFA senior vice president PJ Williams has worked closely with the Isaacs and speaks highly of his coaching abilities.
“Jeff knows his business,” said Williams, who also serves in Safa Cape Town’s referees committee.
“He was involved at provincial level with the Western Cape department of cultural affairs and sport’s teams and also went overseas.
“As a coach, players wanted to play for him. Instead of running after players, they followed him. When we acquired our Third Division franchise, we approached Jeff and came within three points of winning the league.”
Although proud of his many achievements, Isaacs remains a humble servant of the game, saying he’s happy to help out wherever he can. Among the many accolades bestowed upon him over the years, include winning Mitchell’s Plain Football District coach of the year; Strandfontein AFC’s tournament-by-the-sea coach of the tournament and Engen under17 coach of the tournament.
“Whatever, you do, you can never do it without your players and their commitment. I’d like to thank all of the clubs that gave me the opportunity to coach at their clubs. It has been a long and interesting journey,” he said.