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Ephraim Matsilela Sono (affectionately known as Jomo Sono and sometimes also called the "Black Prince of South African Soccer" and "Bra J" "Mjomana" ) (17 July 1955 - ) is a South African soccer club owner and coach and was also a star soccer player.

Early life and soccer player

Sono was born in the township of Orlando East in Sowetomarker, near Johannesburgmarker. When he was eight years old his father Eric "Scara" Bhamuza Sono, who was a midfielder for the Orlando Pirates football team in the early 1960s, died as a result of a car crash. Soon after, his mother abandoned him.

Consequently, Sono was left in the care of his ailing grandparents; as they were very poor, he had to resort to selling apples and peanuts at soccer games and train stations in order to clothe himself, buy food for his grandparents and pay school fees.

Sono’s soccer career had an unusual beginning; during a match that he attended one of the Orlando Pirates’s regular players was absent and Sono was requested to stand in for him. He soon gained fame for his all-round ability, dribbling and accurate passing skills. It was during this time that he was given the nickname of Jomo (which means "burning spear") by an Orlando Pirates fan, who saw in him the same leadership qualities as those of Jomo Kenyatta, the then president of Kenyamarker.

After he had accomplished everything that he set out to do at Orlando Pirates, Sono went to the United States of Americamarker, where he played for the Colorado Caribous and New York Cosmos, where one of his team-mates was the legendary player Pelé. He also played together with another South African soccer star of the time, Kaizer Motaung, who went on to play for the Atlanta Chiefs and later founded what is arguably South Africa’s most famous club, Kaizer Chiefs. Sono completed his stint in North America playing for the Toronto Blizzard, playing three summers, 1980 through 1982.

Club owner and coach

After his soccer career in the USA ended, Sono returned to South Africa, where he purchased the Highlands Park club in Johannesburg in 1982, renaming it Jomo Cosmos in honour of his old team.

Under his ownership, the club went on to achieve several successes: it won the National Soccer League in 1987, the Bobsave Super Bowl in 1990, the Cola Cola Cup in 2002 and the Super Eight in 2003. Jomo Cosmos has also consistently finished among the top teams in the South African Premier Soccer League.

Sono has also taken a leading role in discovering and developing new football talent, especially from rural areas. Some of the players whom Sono recruited and then went on to play for the South African national team and European clubs include Philemon Masinga, Helman Mkhalele, Sizwe Motaung and Mark Fish. Indeed, his recruits formed the core of the South African squad that won the 1996 African Nations Cup; Sono was also a technical advisor to the team’s head coach Clive Barker during the tournament.

In 1998, Sono was appointed as caretaker coach of the Bafana Bafana just before the African Nations Cup tournament in Burkina Fasomarker in the place of Philippe Troussier, who had been sacked just before the event. Under Sono, the team reached the final of the tournament, where they lost to Egypt. Taking the short time that he had to prepare with the team into account, it was considered a remarkable feat.

After a disappointing performance by the South African national squad during the 2002 African Nations Cup in Malimarker, Sono was again appointed a technical director to the team. However, the head coach of the team at that time, Carlos Queiróz, felt that his position was being undermined by this appointment and resigned. Sono was again appointed as caretaker coach, this time for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Koreamarker and Japanmarker.

During the 2002 Football World Cup, the South African squad did not progress beyond the first round; however, they did score five goals and achieved one win, one draw and a 3-2 loss against pre-tournament favourites Spain. The South African captain, Lucas Radebe, credited Sono with much of the team’s performance, saying that he had instilled a good spirit within the team and that he had ensured a very positive atmosphere among the squad.

Sono is the longest-serving coach in the South African Premier League and also sits on the board of the Premier Soccer League. He has also built up a reputation as a successful businessman; in addition to making a substantial profit by developing players and selling them to European teams, he also owns a number of businesses and is a chairman of numerous companies. On 22 October 2009 it was announced that he returned to the South African Football Association, and one day later on 23 October 2009 he took the job as Technical Director.


Sono was voted 49th in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004.


He is married and has four children, includes the South Africa national football team member Bamuza Sono, his second son Matsilela Junior (*22. June 1992) plays in the reserve of Jomo Cosmos.


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