Fri, 17 Jul 2020

Former footballer and television commentator Marc Batchelor was either loved or detested, depending on who you ask.

"Batch", as he was known amongst friends, was shot dead in his vehicle outside his house in Olivedale on Monday evening. Two men on a motorbike were waiting to ambush him and several bullets were pumped through the driver's window in what appears to be a gangland-style assassination.

Batchelor's gardener and his "wolf dog" were also in the BMW at the time - the gardener was unharmed, but the pet underwent an operation on Tuesday morning.

According to a close friend who doesn't want to be named, the ex-soccer star had just returned from viewing cars at an auction and was on his way to take his wolf for a walk. When the gunmen opened fire, Batchelor's first instinct was to shield his gardener and his pet.

Photos of the scene showing Batchelor slumped in the front seat and his heavily tattooed lifeless body, quickly went viral on social media before his family could even get there. The peroxided bad boy was as controversial in death as he was in life.

Marc Batchelor grew up in Joburg's north-eastern suburbs, went to school in Sandringham, and loved sport as a child. Batchelor achieved fame in South Africa as a player for Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Donning the number 25 jersey, he was part of the great Buccaneers side that won the CAF Champions League in 1995 and excelled for the Glamour Boys as both a striker and centre-back. He had charisma, character and heart.

"He was a tireless worker, very much a team player. His big physique and blond hair made him stand out from the crowd," says football journalist Mark Gleeson.

"His honest attitude and endeavor made him popular with the fans, even though he wasn't as prolific as the other players."

Everyone had a Batch story

Batchelor's stock rose when he became an analyst on SuperSport and he earned respect as an articulate pundit. However, the stories about his off-air escapades were never far away and ultimately they cost him his career on air.

He was fired from the channel in 2007 after it emerged that he was amongst a group of men who had beaten up a patron with knuckledusters outside a Parkhurst restaurant.

Around the time of the Brett Kebble murder trial in 2010, he was often seen in the company of self-confessed hitman Mikey Schultz. He was there to support his friend at his boxing fights and when he was in court.

More and more frequently, stories did the rounds of incidents involving Batch. There was the time he was stabbed with a pair of scissors during a fight at Cedar Square, and the one where he beat up a trainer at a gym in Lonehill. It seemed everyone had a Batch story.

In 2013, when Oscar Pistorius was arrested following the death of Reeva Steenkamp, Batchelor did a series of interviews with local and international media about his run-ins with the Paralympic athlete. He regaled the press in colourful language and his gruff manner, about how Pistorius had threatened to break both his legs following an altercation with one of Batchelor's friends over a woman.

He was a regular feature on the court benches in Pretoria and testified in the case for the prosecution. The tabloid journalists were fascinated by him as he personified an apparent dark presence in the athlete's life. During interviews, he was jumpy and hyper, jokingly putting his erratic behavior down to his attention deficit disorder.

'He had a good heart'

In the last few years, it seems Batchelor lost his way. He fell out with Schultz and they grew to despise one another. Schultz was less than complimentary when asked for a comment for this obituary.

"I think he is a clown wannabe gangster, [who] bullied old and small and had no balls to stand up to anyone that wasn't scared... He was a knocker (conman) and a big thief. He would promise ppl (sic) to do debts, but take there money so if u (sic) wanna know who killed him follow the money... However, he was a good guy when he was young, before he started taking excessive amounts of steroids. I won't be involved with bullies and there were lots of stories that happened, and I distanced myself from him," says Schultz.

An investigator who closely followed the underworld says: "Schultz and co said he went rogue and they were very upset. They wanted nothing to do with him for a while now."

He fell out with other friends and family too.

Former Springbok rugby icon Ray Mordt was a mentor to Batchelor, but says he hadn't spoken to him for two and a half years.

"I lost contact with Marc. I tried to speak to him and say, you need to change your ways. I could see the good side in Marc. He had a good heart. He was a good person. He just couldn't get out from where he was, where he was doing business. He followed the wrong path, working with the underworld. I would tell him, 'Marc, you just need to get a steady job, you don't need all these ghosts in your mind and the desperation to get money'," reminisces Mordt.

'It's very, very sad'

But Mordt says that he firmly maintains that Batchelor was a good man.

"We laughed and we had fun and joked around and everyone knew him. You would stop at a garage and everyone knew Marc Batchelor, and all the petrol attendants would come out. Marc was so well-known. He carried himself so well, but I think it's all to do with a lifestyle, your financial side of things. There's a lot of people that detested Marc and people used to say, 'You don't know Marc like we do.' I knew his dad and Warren and they were a lovely family.

"I hadn't spoken to Batch, we had a bit of a difference and that's the way that it was left. When you talk to people and you sit and discuss, I remember people saying it's just a matter of time that something like this will happen. I know he harassed and maybe fought and did some naughty things, but he never killed anyone. It was a matter of time - there was desperation. It's very, very sad. I will just remember the Marc that had so much good in him."

He had become friendly with Cape Town security industry boss Nafiz Modack, as he dabbled in the car auction business.

"He was a family man and not a man for war," said Modack, shortly after the shooting.

"Those who shot him should be afraid and very afraid."

He suggests that Batchelor knew his time was up.

A close friend, who doesn't want to be named, says the troubled soccer star was in the process of mending his ways and getting his life back on track.

'Nelson Mandela loved him'

"He was trying to get straight and exercise. He would walk the wolves and he wanted to lead a normal life and not look over [his] shoulder all the time. He went off the path for a while. He wasn't a saint, but not everyone's a saint. I was trying to get him back in line to do legitimate stuff," says his friend.

It's believed Batchelor was busy setting up a security business and trying to land contracts.

Batchelor's brother Warren, who was the director and executive producer of "204: Getting Away with Murder" about the Kebble killing, is broken about his death.

"He was a legend. The outpouring of love and support that I've got has been overwhelming. I've got hundreds and hundreds of messages. We have to focus on the good. We were estranged when he died and we were planning to meet. He was changing. The people around him saw he was changing."

Warren acknowledges that his brother was troubled, but insists he must be remembered as a legend who was loved by the country.

"He was a hero and a legend to millions. I'm broken at the manner in which it happened. I saw the body in the morgue and said it's not him. He must be remembered as a legend. Nelson Mandela invited him to the Presidency and Nelson Mandela loved him. Yes, he was troubled and flawed, but aren't we all. In the end he was still a good person."

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