Three days before Andries (Six Lights) Maseko left home to join the Washington Diplomats his head was shaved bald by fellow Zulu tribesmen.
The shaven head long has been symbolic of a Zulu warrior going to war and Maseko, one of the top soccer players in the South African League, felt the North American Soccer League was brutal enough to warrant a battle-custom haircut.
"It has grown back a little but I'll have to shave again before I go home," said the 24-year-old native of Johannesburg. "If not, the chieftain would be upset with me."
The Dips, attempting to turn around last year's disappointing record of 10.16, are defending on Maseko and fellow South African forward Ken Racehorse) Mokgojoa as players of the future.
Washington opens the regular season against the expansion Philadelphia Fury at 2 o'clock tomorrow at Veterans Stadium.
The game will be televised on WTTG-TV-5 and will be broadcast on WTOP-1500.
Maseko, who earned his nickname - Six Lights - after scoring six goals in his professional debut, and Mokgojoa may be the best one-on, one offensive players on the Dips' roster.
Mokgojoa, of the Tswana tribe, led the South African League in scoring last year with 88 goals. Maseko was second with 75. They played some 100 games during the league's 11-month season.
The caliber of play in the SAL is not a par with that in the NASL and the two South Africans have had to adjust to a zone disciplined, team oriented style.
"I'll be happy to score 15 goals here," said Maseko. After a moment's hesitation he said, "Even 10 goals."
It's not the same. The players over here are much better," said Mokgojoa, 23. "We didn't pay much defense in South Africa. We are learning here each day."
The Dips' first-year coach, Gordon Bradley, signed both players upseen. He has not been disappointed.
"They were recommended to me and I signed them as an investment," said Bradley. "This is a learning period for them. They're weak on defense.
"But the players can't relax with them around. They learn fast and are coming on better than I thought."
Their teammates have been impressed with the South Africans.
"They're fantastic, skill-wise. With them here we have tremendous depth up front," said defender Roy Wilner, who, with Gary Darrell, are the only two players who have been here more than two years. "They just need to work on the defensive end a little.The other day, I was making runs upfield and Ken stayed right with me. Any other time he, would have let me run free."
"It takes time to become adjusted to a new style of play," he said. "Andries controls the ball as well or better than any player I've seen in the world, including Pele. But both are coachable; they're very concerned about their progress. One thing, the other players realize how good they are."
The two, who played for the multiracial South African National Team are in no hurry. They're both just glad to be here.
"I like the American way of living," said Maseko, a 5-foot-9 155-pounder. "You can do many new things here.
"We live about 30 miles apart and have played soccer against each other and with each other since we were very small," said Mokgojoa, two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier than his friend.
"Soccer is the only game we know. With these good players, I know we'll like playing here."
For the Diplomats, who scored only 31 goals last season, the addition of Maseko and Mokgojoa is welcome.