A product of South End High, Desmond Jacobs started his football career as a 9 year old with Swallows FC under the leadership of the late Lennie Knipp. Playing in the u13 division, Jacobs held his own with, and against much bigger and older boys, often producing standout performances.
Jacobs progressed rapidly in the junior ranks, scoring goals with ease. Being the youngest in the team, he received all the plaudits for his scoring ability and his teammates often celebrated his goals with shouts of “Bravo, Bravo”, coining the phrase from the movie “Rio Bravo” which was on circuit at the time. Needless to say, the name stuck and since then Jacobs became better known as “Bravo” – an appropriate name for someone who was to become one of the icons of Football in Port Elizabeth.
When he entered High School, Bravo changed clubs and joined Blackpool FC, linking up with all his close neighbourhood friends. However, his stint with Blackpool juniors did not last long as he joined Paladins FC in the latter years of his High Schooling, playing alongside senior players like Sharkie Johnson, Anwar Abrahams and ‘Young Ones’ Saffedien. The advent of the Group Areas Act led to most Football clubs leaving South End and relocating to the Northern Suburbs on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. Bravo continued playing for Paladins for a while, but re-joined Blackpool FC in 1970 under the leadership of Valentine Brink.
It was at this stage of his career that Bravo made his mark in the senior ranks. Playing in the illustrious company of teammates like Hamma Burton, Charlie Burton, Beano Moodaley, Selwyn Erasmus and Owen Jones, he soon developed into an outstanding footballer. In 1970, at the age of 17, he won his first senior provincial cap, representing EP at the inter-provincial Kajee Cup in Johannesburg. Bravo became a regular in the Senior EP team and within two years he joined the professional ranks as a player with PE United. He achieved much success with United, often producing ‘man-of the-match’ performances.
With the professional league not really taking off at the time, Bravo returned to the amateur league as a Blackpool FC player. After a long successful stint with Blackpool, who was one of the top teams in the league, Bravo switched allegiances and joined Callies FC from the rival EP Football Association. As a Callies player, he won every trophy on offer and also became a regular in that provincial team. Most notably, he scored the winning goal for EP against Transvaal in the final at the inter-provincial Currie Cup tournament held in Orkney.
With sport and society moving towards normality in the early nineties, Bravo was recruited to Highland Spurs FC who campaigned in the NSL professional league. There he served as a player and coach, before joining Hotspurs FC in the 2nd division professional league during 1995. At the ripe old age of 42, Bravo competed against seasoned professionals of the calibre of Zane Moosa and Ernest Chirwali of Sundowns FC before retiring from football as a player in 1996. In 2000, Bravo briefly came out of retirement and joined Woolhope Rialto FC as player/coach. 46 years old at the time, he was still able to compete in the fast paced NAFA Premier League. A quite remarkable feat!!
Bravo lists footballing personalities Hamma Burton, Thomas Human, Godfrey De Kock, Abe Bailey, Boney Bailey, Valentine Brink, Boebie Williams and Steven Draai amongst the people who had the biggest influence on his footballing career. Some of his most notable achievements as a player and coach include the following:
- EPSB Captain
- SASF Captain
- SA Industrial Soccer League Captain
- SA Industrial League Coach
- Saints FC Coach – Winning the NAFA Premier League for the first time in the clubs history. It was also his first year as coach in charge of Saints FC.
- Callies FC Captain and Coach
- Highland Spurs Coach
- Coach – Woolhope Rialto FC
Over his illustrious career as an amateur and professional player and coach, Bravo experienced many exciting moments, some of which will remain etched in his memory banks. He recalls his most enduring memories as follows:
- Playing against Sundowns FC at Telkom Park.
- Playing against Orlando Pirates at the Orlando Stadium.
- Playing against Namibia for the SA Industrial League team at the Orlando Stadium.
- Playing at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on the opening day becoming one of the first players to play on the surface.
- Beating Cape Town Spurs 4-3 after being 3-0 down at Half-time, while representing PE United.
Apart from his accomplishments in football, Bravo Jacobs also enjoyed a very successful cricketing career. Influenced by cricketing stalwarts Maurice Wilson and Philip Snyman, Bravo joined Daffodils Cricket Club as a 9 year old, competing with and against grown men in the 3rd division senior team. He was given his first cricket bat by older brother James “Koenie” Jacobs, who was an EP Rugby player at the time. Koenie was instrumental in Bravo’s formative years as a cricketer, often taking him to games to watch greats like Graeme Pollock at St. Georges Park and encouraging him along the way.
As in football, Bravo won his senior provincial colours as a 17 year old in 1970, competing for the Dadabhai Trophy against the likes of Transvaal, Natal and Western Province amongst others. Bravo fondly remembers being bowled out first ball against Natal at the Adcock Stadium in 1972. This proved to be the tonic that spurred him on to work harder at his game. He reaped the rewards of this endeavour when he was appointed senior provincial captain and together with Khaya Majola as his deputy, led the EP team to their first ever Howa Bowl title. Bravo continued to make great strides in cricket and he reached the pinnacle of his career when he captained the SA Team against a Western Province X1 in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Bravo’s cricketing career has spanned an incredible 49 years, starting as a 9 year old for Daffodils CC and currently still playing as 58 year old for the Gelvandale Cricket Club 2nd team. Over that period he has achieved tremendous success and in the process cemented himself as one of the most inspirational figures in the local sporting arena.
He acknowledges Neville Francis, Jeff Frans, Steven Draai, Maurice Wilson, Devdas Govindgee, Khaya Majola and Ranie Hendricks as players that made an impact on his Cricket. Most of all, he attributes much of his cricketing success to the encouragement he received from South African born England international, Basil D’Oliviera. Reflecting on the highlights of his cricketing journey, Bravo outlined the following:
- Playing in the same team with Philip Snyman and Maurice Wilson.
- Representing South Africa against the International Wanderers. The SA team included Eddie Barlow, Barry Richards, Hylton Ackerman, Graeme Pollock, Lee Irvine, Titch Smith, Dougie Neilson, Dev Govindjee and Vintcent Van Der Bijl. The International Wanderers line-up included Australians Greg and Ian Chappel, Dennis Lillee, England’s Derek Underwood, West Indians Lawrence Rowe, Collis King amongst others.
- Captaining the SA team
- Captaining Pioneers Cricket Club (Pioneers was established following the merger between Albany, Stardust and Aryans Cricket Club)
- Captaining EP to their first ever Howa Bowl Title.
To have a 37 year football career coupled with an on-going 49 year cricket career is astonishing to say the least. It reveals the character of an individual that can be described as the ultimate larger-than-life warrior, the epitome of endurance and a sporting inspiration to all. Bravo Jacobs is that individual.