JOHANNESBURG – Ted Dumitru, the former South African national soccer team coach whose 40-year career took him from communist Romania to Turkey, Germany, the United States and across Africa, died Thursday. He was 76.
The death of the Romania-born Dumitru was announced by the South African Football Association and the South African Football Coaches Association. Dumitru collapsed at a shopping mall in Johannesburg, the associations said.
Early in his career, after fleeing the communist regime in Romania, Dumitru took charge of the Rochester Lancers and New York Apollo in the U.S.
He coached South Africa’s national team from 2005-06. His greatest success came with Kaizer Chiefs, one of South Africa’s biggest clubs, winning back-to-back league titles in 2004 and 2005. He also had stints in charge of Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns, meaning he took charge of all three of South Africa’s top clubs. He won trophies at all three.
Dumitru also was head coach of the Zambia, Swaziland and Namibia national teams. At the time of his death, he was a member of the South African Football Association’s technical committee.
Already a coach in his mid-20s, Dumitru was reportedly ordered by Romania’s security police in the 1970s to return home while coaching in Turkey. He refused, and emerged in the U.S. with Rochester and New York’s “other” team, the Apollo, when Pele was with the New York Cosmos.
In South Africa, where nicknames for soccer people are popular, Dumitru was called “The Professor.” Former Mamelodi Sundowns owner Anastasia Tsichlas said the nickname was because Dumitru knew everything about soccer.
“He had so many wise things to say about the game,” Tsichlas said.