For most of last season, Ken Mokgojoa and Andries Maseko wished they were home in South Africa rather than in Washington, D.C. The virtually inseparable wingers, who are blessed with blinding speed and one-on-one moves, magical ball skills and charisma, never did adjust to the fast city life, strangers and the freedom that blacks seldom see in South Africa.
"It was just too big," said Maseko, who scored 75 goals during his 1977-78 season in South Africa. "I never did feel comfortable. I was glad to come but I wasn't used to mixing with whites. I could only think of my mother and seven sisters. I spent almost $700 making long-distance calls.
"I wanted to go home several times, but I had to honor my contract. My friends know what I could do with the ball. But I was so lonely, I couldn't play. If Kenny hadn't come, I wouldn't have come here."
But, having committed themselves to their contracts with the Dips, Maseko and Mokgojoa are now not so sure their choice of playing for Washington has been worth it.
Their biggest concern, they say, is earning starting berths on the soccer field, so much so that Maseko has hinted he would like to play elsewhere if he does not get more time on the field here.
"I'm not sure what I'll do when my contract is up. Maybe I'll ask to be traded," said Maseko, who had played just 23 minutes before starting Sunday against Rochester.
His desire to play has lessened because of his inactivity, Maseko said. I know my shooting has been off. I almost feel like I was recruited just to practice against the other players."
Maseko, who is easily the quickest player on the team, scored the first goal of his NASL career against the Lancers, tying the game at 2-2, on a penalty kick. Washington eventually lost, 3-2, in a shootout.
Mokgojoa, on the other hand, has been playing. He reported late from his South African team, Benoni United, and was slow adjusting to the new Diplomat players. He has scored three goals, one a game winner and another tying a game the Dips eventually won.
Said Mokgojoa: "I think I'm a much better player than last year. I would like to play more but I'm not complaining."
Mokgojoa and Maseko were two of five blacks to play for the previously all-white South African national team two years ago. Mokgojoa broke into the Diplomats' starting lineup midway into the 1978 season and was a terror. The 5-foot-11, 165-pounds 24-year-old finished as the second-leading scorer with 10 goals and six assists. He set a club record by scoring a goal in six straight games.
Despite his success, Mokgojoa has not happy. He, too, longed to return to his family, which includes five brothers and two sisters.
"I had never been out the black community in my city," said Mokgojoa, "except to the coach's house once in a while. It was a tough adjustment for me in Washington. But people were nice and that helped. Besides, I wanted to play with different players and learn. I wanted to be a better player."
The two biggest differences the players noticed were the attitudes of the police and the crowds.
"They (police) arrest blacks for nothing in Johannesburg," said Maseko. "At night, you have to carry a travelling pass to go into the white neighborhoods. And they always stop you. I'm not afraid of policemen, but I don't like them. Here, at least they don't arrest you for nothing.
"We always had a full house (50,000) when the black team played the white team in Johannesburg. Whites sit on one side and blacks on the other. At every game, there's a fight," said Maseko. "Whew, they fight. The teams rarely did and the games were never stopped. We were surrounded by a 10-foot fence and the fighting was always in the stands."
Coach Gordon Bradley said he did not know what to expect from either player when they arrived last year.
"I took them on the say-so of my scout," said Bradley. "Ken turned out to be a wonderful player last year. But he came so late this season and the team was playing well, I couldn't put him in. Now, he's starting to play great.
Andries, on the other hand, was not doing that well. So we tried him, at his wish, at the midfield position. And he has done well there. He has great skills, as does Kenneth, but it was tough getting him on the team (NASL teams can dress only 16 players). Until he went to the midfield, I didn't hold much hope for him to break into the front line."
Bradley said a problem with both players was their habit of trying to do too much with the ball, going one on one trying to score.
"In South Africa, there's a lot of emphasis on scoring, not much defense," said Bradley. "The crowds there love the juking and faking. They aren't as concerned about the winning as they are about the show."
Several of the Diplomat players like the Mokgojoa-Maseko combination.
"They gave Rochester players a hard time," said one player. "But we know, when the other guys are healthy again, Andries goes back to where he was and Ken becomes a sub again. They can't be too happy with this situation."
Maseko, at 5-7, 145, is a target for the physical, intimidating type of defenders. He was smacked to the ground several times in the Rochester game but bounced back into the flow of the game each time. He had no problem outrunning the slower Lancer players. CAPTION: Picture 1, Andries Maseko; Picture 2, Ken Mokgojoa