Last week, South African football fanatics witnessed a horrible tackle by Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Bongani Zungu which resulted in Bernard Parker having a broken leg. With Parker in the twilight of his career, it looked like his playing career might come to an end. Despite that, Parker had an outstanding career that has spanned over two decades. Let’s take a look at where it all started for him.
He was born in Boksburg, Johannesburg, a place where some notable footballers like former Bafana Bafana and Jomo Cosmos striker McDonald Mukansi and Bradley Grobler are coming from – Parker himself followed the love for football despite excelling deeply in athletics during his school days. His talent for football saw him getting a lifetime opportunity to be part of the School of Excellence. The school is notable for producing the country’s best players including Steven Pienaar, Brent Carlese, and Thulani Serero to name a few. Described by James Mabena, the oldest coach in the academy, as one of the most talented and versatile players to ever grace the academy. At school, he was guided under the wings of respected coaches including Farouk Khan and Calvin Johnson.
Having spent over five years there, he was soon transferred to Hellenic FC, where he made his professional career debut. At Hellenic, he struggled like any youngster to find feet before the club suffered a relegation in the top flight football in 2004. With the owners deciding to sell the status to the Ndlovu family, the club was renamed Benoni Premier United and the club moved to Johannesburg. As the club was campaigning in the second division, It cut down the costs by releasing experienced players in order to start giving a platform to the youngsters.
Then Parker started to establish himself as one of the vital players for the club. Not only his career was blossoming at the club level alone. In the SA Under-23 side, Parker had started to form a deadly partnership with Lebohang Mokoena upfront under the reigns of Steve Kompela. Having Benoni Premier United obtained a promotion to the top-flight football in 2007, Parker then became one the household names for the club. He became one of the most dangerous players in the club which troubled many clubs including Katlego Loke and July Mahlangu. As many people became impressed with his talent and eye for the goal, It became relevant that a move away from the club was looming.
At the start of the 2008/9 Premier Soccer League season, Parker netted 10 goals in the first half of the season which saw clubs start to chase his signature. Despite the rumors that he might sign for Kaizer Chiefs, Parker earned a move to 1991 UEFA Champions League winners Red Star Belgrade of Serbia in January 2009 to end the speculations. His stay though lasted for six months as the Red Star had financial problems and had to sell players in order to keep running. In July 2009, he earned a permanent move to Dutch outfit Twente FC to play under the tetulege of former England coach Steve McClaren. In his first full season, the club won the league for the first time in their history. Among members of that squad include Costa Rica legend Bryan Luiz, the late Cheick Tiote, and Luuk De Jong. McClaren left the club for Wolfsburg of Germany and Parker failed to secure a place in the starting eleven in the following season.
He was later transferred to Greek side Panserraikos FC but failed to make an impact. In the 2012-13 season, Parker opted to come back home to sign for Kaizer Chiefs despite having some interest in the club’s Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark. In his first season with Amakhosi, he scored 12 league goals to lead the club into the double of trophies winning a League and Nedbank Cup. Then in the following season, he scored 10 goals with the club occupying the first spot for much of the season only to lose the league in the last five games.
During his decade-long stay at Naturena, he earned a legendary status in the club earning over 350 appearances and scoring over 60 goals before leaving for TS Galaxy. In the Bafana Bafana colours, he is second behind Benni McCarthy in the goalscoring charts with 23 goals in 73 appearances.