The life of Mufasa

Wed, 29 Aug 2012 13:15
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Mascots are a dime a dozen in sport. But have you ever wondered where it all started?

Mascots are a dime a dozen in sport. But have you ever wondered where it all started?

We bring you the story of Mufasa, the Golden Lions' mascot - the longest serving mascot in South African rugby.

These are his own words, penned by Mufasa himself!

The Lions Rugby Union was the first to have a mascot, way back in 1996 just after the Boks won the world cup.

A very good friend of mine André Cronjé was the first Mascot and at that stage the suit looked like the Simba Lion on the chips packet. It was not the image I would have liked to associate with though rugby players at that stage. I was unaware of André being in the suit and he had done three games for the then called Transvaal team, still in the era of Louis Luyt.

The following Saturday André couldn't be the Lion at Ellispark and phoned all his buddies to find someone to stand in. Needles to say no-one was prepared to jump into that odd looking creature. He then remembered me and as all his other friends did, I also declined ... after nearly killing myself laughing when I heard he was the Mascot.

André was desperate and told me that you get to meet the players and R100 for the game. I decided to help him out and went on game day to Ellispark, after he carefully explained to me what to do. Obviously I took a couple of 'Dutch courage' enhancers in the form of a few lagers and ran onto Ellispark for the very first time as the Mascot.

I had to stay on the field for 10 min prior to the game and during half time went ballistic in the suit doing one arm push-ups, flick-flacks and place kicking the ball over the posts. That 10 minutes felt like an eternity as André never told me how hot this suit was and you almost de-hydrate in 10 minutes, I lost approximately two kilograms that day.(Luckily I was still playing rugby at that stage and quite fit).

On the Monday André and I went to meet Louis (Jnr) as he was in charge of the mascot and to collect my hard earned R100. Louis (Jnr) thanked me for a job well done and told André, this is how a mascot should perform, asked me if I want the job and told André that his duties were no longer required. As André and Louis (Jnr) were student buddies André took it quite well, I think he was actually quite relieved being fired from his first job.

I lead the Transvaal team on the field ever since this day, became mascot for the Cats franchise and the now Golden Lions Rugby Union - 17 years later.

Mufasa, as the lions Mascot is known today, was established two years after I started and I requested the marketing manager at that stage to have a new suite designed. He agreed and with the help of a Bio Kinetic, who helped with the design we went to a costume designer - Cora's Costumes in Boksburg - with our design.

This 'Tannie' was in the business for years and knew what we wanted. The new suits arms and legs were manufactured from Neoprene rubber according to my arm and leg size with all the muscles bulging, the head made out of fibreglass and overall weighed approximately 12 kg. If you think the old fury suit was hot ,the new one was a sauna, but Mufasa looked liked a Greek God and at last the Simba image was buried.

We hosted a competition to name the new lion at Ellispark and names like Scar, Mufasa, Simba (once again), Tau, and many more were suggested. Mufasa was chosen and became an instant hit at Ellispark and I kept in shape as I lost three kilograms every Saturday on the field.

It was no longer 10 minutes before and 10 minutes during half time. I stayed on the field for the duration of the game. At first I had to go off and breathe every 10 minutes, as I wanted to faint, as you constantly breathe in your own air inside the fibreglass mask, but you eventually get used to it. At one stage I had small battery operated fans inside the helmet, but every time I did a flick-flack, the batteries fell out, so I took it out.

I had many funny incidents throughout the years, but a couple stands out.

The first time Mufasa and Sharkie met at Kingspark we discussed what we were going to do to entertain the crowd up front. Things didn't go according to plan and we got into a huge fight with fists flying galore to the amusement of the crowd who thought this was all part of the act. Eventually the security guards took us apart and we shook hands and went on with the game.

I must say that of all the stadiums other than Ellispark, Kingspark and the shark supporters are by far the best crowd and opposition friendly to Mufasa.

I was thrown with bottles and objects at another stadium, which I will not mention.

Mascots have become a part of SA Rugby and I was told by many Lions supporters in our dry years that the only thing that kept them coming to Ellispark was Mufasa.

It is a pleasure to put smiles on kids faces, not all of them, some give one look and bail or hide under mommies arm.

At Loftus once they had the Jacuzzi next to the field with some lucky sexy fans in them, watching the game. Every time I walked past the Jacuzzi they would chirp me and I decided to jump in with them. They were all over me which obviously I enjoyed, but as the suit was made from rubber with insulation strapped below the knees to keep it up. As I got out of the water the suit weighed double the normal weight as I took half of the Jacuzzi water out with me.

Another funny story at Loftus was in the early 2000 when I made button badges with a Blue Bull printed on it, with pink horns and sunglasses on and underneath I wrote in Afrikaans "Blou Ossies". I threw this into the Loftus crowd and one C-for serious Bulls supporter an old man with huge horns and the whole Bulls outfit got up and asked me: 'Hey boetie gooi my ook een van daai CDs' and I did.

He had a brief look at it threw it straight back at me and shouted "vat die ding en druk dit in jou G_T !!!!"

I also have a lot of fun with my flashboards, I have one for each province:
* For the Lions  - on the front - Lions jou Ma...............    On the back 'n Leeu !!!
* Bulls - front  -  Blou Bulle jou Ma.................     On the back 'n Koei !!!!
* Cheetah's jou Ma ...............                    ...............purr soos 'n pussycat !!!
* Sharks jou Ma..................              is 'n shag, sorry I meant shad !!!!
* WP jou Ma................           'n lekke Ding !!!

With this I always have mixed emotions, mostly understood as a joke, but not the Bulls. One guy attacked me at Ellispark and said I was swearing his Mother, I apologised shook his hand and said: "Ok jou ma is nie 'n koei nie sy is 'n Blou Koei." Needless to say he was unstoppable and the security guards removed him from the field.

In 2005 I received a phone call from the Moroka Swallows Football Clubs management, who requested me to be Mascot for them as they saw me at Ellispark.

I thought at the time that this was a prank organised by my wife and son, as they have called [prank-caller] Wackhead Simpson in Gauteng. I went to meet them at their head office, but was still weary upon arrival, looking for hidden cameras in their boardroom. Nothing happened and out came the Swallow suit of Moroka swallows and they asked me to try it on. I told them that I don't really follow soccer as I was a rugby man. They pleaded and gave me a good appearance fee. I Told them that I would help them out, but they must look for someone alternative.

I arrived at home with the Swallow suit and one of my sons, Jonty, was highly upset about this and said: “How on earth can you be a Lion one day and a Swallow the next”.

I appeared for Swallows on six occasions and that was it.

I have currently appeared in 228 games as Mufasa for the Lions over a period of 17 years and still going strong and will until such time the body won't allow it.

There is much more to tell but I think I will keep you busy for quite some time, maybe I should write a book of all my experiences.

To all the Lions supporters out there stay loyal the Lions will bounce back, last year winning the Currie Cup was one of the greatest moments of my life. I held the Currie Cup in my own hands and drank with the players in the change room from it.

I realised after 17 years I was part of the great franchise and belong here and will until the day that I die.

It is a good thing that we have different taste otherwise we would all have worn pink jerseys and support the Bulls - no offence!!

Maybe one day I will also be lucky to land a job at SARU as rugby is my passion and will always be.

Lukas Fouché

* Rotate the pictures to see Mufasa in  all his guises!