Bernard Hartze death, ZA football player passed away after a brief illness

Bernard Hartze has died. (Source: Facebook)
Bernard Hartze has died. (Source: Facebook)

 

South Africa football community bids farewell to one of its legendary figures, Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze. The retired professional footballer, renowned for his exceptional skills as a midfielder, has left an indelible mark on the beautiful game.

As news of his passing reverberates through the hearts of fans and fellow players alike, we take a moment to reflect on the remarkable career and enduring legacy of a man whose passion for the sport brought joy to the nation and beyond.

Bernard Hartze passed away

In a heartbreaking turn of events, the football world mourns the loss of a true South African legend, Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze, who passed away recently. The news has sent shockwaves through the sporting community, as fans and fellow athletes grapple with the reality that a beloved figure has departed. Hartze, celebrated for his extraordinary skills as a midfielder, leaves behind a legacy that transcends the boundaries of the beautiful game.

Who was Bernard Hartze?

Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze, born on March 5, 1950, is a retired South African professional footballer renowned for his role as a midfielder. His football journey spanned various leagues in both South Africa and the United States. The moniker “Dancing Shoes” was bestowed upon him early in his career, highlighting his exceptional dribbling skills and nimble footwork.

Born in the Marabastad section of Pretoria, South Africa, in 1950, Hartze’s unique heritage, with a Dutch father and a South African mother, resulted in his classification as coloured by the South African government. This diverse background played a significant role in shaping his identity within the complex social landscape of the time.

At the age of 14, Hartze, along with a group of schoolboys, played a pivotal role in establishing the Mamelodi Sundowns in the early 1960s. Demonstrating remarkable talent from a young age, he inked his first professional contract at the tender age of 15, setting the stage for a remarkable football career that would see him become a household name in South African football history.

Dancing Shoes’ Journey

Due to his mixed-race background and the apartheid policies enforced by the government, Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze faced restricted playing opportunities during his career. The National Football League, being exclusively for white players, posed a significant barrier. Despite attempts by officials in Durban to alter his racial designation to white for eligibility in the NFL, their efforts proved unsuccessful.

In 1967, Hartze’s impressive performances caught the attention of Leeds United F.C., leading to a trial. However, the intricate regulations of the Football Association for signing international players, combined with the challenges of homesickness that any 17-year-old would encounter in a foreign land, thwarted his stint, prompting him to return to South Africa after just two months.

Following a brief period with Barea F.C., Hartze joined Orlando Pirates in late 1967, experiencing considerable success with the non-racial club. Nevertheless, the establishment of the National Professional Soccer League, exclusively for Bantu players, introduced complications. When government authorities enforced this segregation rule, Hartze and three of his teammates were compelled to depart from Orlando Pirates in 1970.

A Football Journey Through Racial Barriers and International Leagues

Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze found himself limited to the Federation Professional League, exclusively comprising colored and Indian South African players, as his sole professional option. In 1970, he took on the role of player-coach for Cape Town Spurs F.C. Various sources suggest that during his time with Spurs, Hartze secured scoring titles in 1970, 1971, and possibly 1972. Notably, he reportedly scored an impressive 54 goals in 30 games in 1970, earning him South Africa’s Sportsman of the Year award.

Another source indicates an even more remarkable goal-scoring feat in 1972, with Hartze tallying 35 goals in just 16 matches. There is an additional report highlighting his pivotal contribution to Cape Town United’s victory over his former club Spurs in a cup final, scoring both goals in a 2–0 triumph.

In December 1974, he became the third player to sign with the newly-formed Tampa Bay Rowdies in the North American Soccer League (NASL), contributing with 4 goals and 3 assists, aiding the Rowdies to a runner-up finish in the 1975 indoor tournament.

Unfortunately, Hartze encountered an injury setback in the second game of the 1975 outdoor season, resulting in a struggle to regain fitness and only making four more appearances for the rest of the season. Although he missed out on the victorious Soccer Bowl ’75 as he was on the injured list, Hartze continued his football journey by playing on loan for Cape Town in 1975-76 during the NASL’s off-season before returning to the U.S. in 1976.

During the spring of 1976, Hartze joined the Tacoma Tides in the American Soccer League on loan from the Rowdies and was later traded to the Sacramento Spirits in June 1976. In late July, following the dismissal of head coach Dick Ott, he assumed the role of player-coach, guiding the Spirits to a commendable 3–1–4 record with eight games remaining in the season.

As South African teams began the process of integration, Hartze returned home in 1977, signing with the NPSL side Hellenic F.C. The subsequent year marked the official reorganization of the NPSL to become a non-racial league.

Awards and Recognitions

In 2006, Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze received recognition as a sports legend from the Government of the Western Cape’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. This honor served as a testament to his enduring impact on South African football, acknowledging his significant contributions to the sport and his lasting legacy.

In October 2007, Hartze joined an illustrious group of 50 past and present players, coaches, and officials who were honored by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on the occasion of CAF’s 50th Anniversary. This recognition at the continental level highlighted his standing not only within South African football but also on the broader African stage.

The accolades continued in August 2016 when Cape Town City FC, a prominent football club, bestowed lifetime season tickets upon 30 local footballing legends, including Hartze. This gesture not only celebrated his individual achievements but also emphasized his role in shaping the footballing culture of the region.

In February 2017, the Joburg Post, a respected publication, ranked Bernard Hartze second on their list of the Greatest Orlando Pirates players ever. This prestigious acknowledgment placed him in esteemed company, with only Percy “Chippa” Moloi ranking ahead of him. Such recognition reaffirmed Hartze’s enduring impact on Orlando Pirates, one of South Africa’s most renowned football clubs.

Bernard Hartze Cause of Death

Tragically, recent reports have surfaced indicating that Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze had been battling an undisclosed illness since the beginning of January. Despite the valiant fight against this health challenge, the beloved South African football icon ultimately succumbed to the ailment. The news of his passing has cast a somber shadow over the football community, leaving fans and admirers mourning the loss of a true legend.

In this difficult time, social media platforms, particularly Facebook, have become a virtual space for an outpouring of grief and heartfelt condolences. Friends, fans, fellow athletes, and those whose lives were touched by Hartze’s charisma and skill have taken to expressing their sadness and sharing fond memories of the legendary midfielder.

Tributes

Rod Solomons wrote: “Eish, Bernard Hartze is no more!If there is now a great football player from our community then it’s this guy! Dancing Shoes was one of a kind, who did South Africa proud. Footballers like him are rare jewels.Humble and soft spoken, never one to seek the limelight. A clever guy indeed. I now reminisce about the interactions him, the late Kelvin Katz and myself used to have (some were off the wall).Say hi to Kelvin as the 2 of you kick some balls my friend.My deepest condolences.SALUTE!”

Virginia Super League 80’s Heroes wrote: “Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze has sadly passed away. An amazing player, coach and human is no more. His memories will live on forever.”

While the pain of Bernard Hartze’s departure is deeply felt, his legacy lives on through the countless memories etched into the annals of South African football history. The impact of his skill, sportsmanship, and leadership will endure, serving as a source of inspiration for future generations of players who aspire to follow in the footsteps of a true football icon.

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1 thought on “Bernard Hartze death, ZA football player passed away after a brief illness”

  1. So sad to hear about Bernard Hartze’s passing. My heart goes out to his loved ones and the football community in South Africa. He was a talented player and will be greatly missed. RIP Bernard.

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