FAMILY and friends packed the Gelvandale Baptist Church last week to bid farewell to Northern Areas soccer legend Nolan “Hamma” Burton, 68, who died at the Provincial Hospital in Port Elizabeth after a long battle with cancer.
When Douglas “Bunny Boer” Williams called a meeting in South End, where the Burton family lived, to resurrect Blackpool FC in 1956, a scrawny 12-year-old walked in and asked if he could join. He had already been playing for Paladins for two years.
Blackpool’s lowest age group was U16, but that did not bother the youngster. He started playing with boys twice his size, and a legend was born.
It was not long before Nolan became one of the finest strikers the Eastern Province Soccer Board had produced.
Nolan was the eldest child of Douglas and Sylvia Burton. Although his siblings may not have reached the same heights as him, all of them were no slouches in sport with his sister, Irene, representing the province in softball (as captain) and hockey.
And it was no surprise that both of Nolan’s sons followed in their renowned dad’s footsteps. Craig and Dougie played soccer for the provincial schools’ teams.
According to one of his contemporaries, Burton had a lethal boot and struck the ball like a sledgehammer. Somewhere down the line the hammer became “Hama” and the nickname stuck throughout his life.
His erstwhile friend, Bravo Jacobs, himself a legendary Eastern Province soccer star, was the keynote speaker at the funeral and said it was unfortunate that Nolan was born in the wrong era.
“He would have been right there among the Lionel Messis and Christiano Ronaldos of the world.”
In the mid-60s Nolan scored a hat-trick for Blackpool reserves against the Hotspurs First Division team in the Mala Moodaley KO Cup competition. However Hotspurs drew level to force a replay. The teams clashed thrice before Blackpool went through to the finals where they beat another First Division outfit, Trojans, 3-0 under floodlights at the showgrounds. No prizes for guessing – Nolan scored all three goals!
He won provincial colours for the first time when he represented the EP Soccer Board in the biannual Kajee Cup competition at the Curries Fountain Stadium in Durban. Three years later he was in the team that won the competition for the first time.
In 1970 he scored a hat-trick against Western Province, but EP went down 4-3.
Nolan’s last provincial appearance was at the Adcock Stadium in 1974. Despite his hat-trick Eastern Province lost 4-3 to Northern Natal.
The following year he played for PE United in the SA Soccer Federation Professional League.
In his twilight years Nolan played for Westbourne Tigers in the over-35 league and for Checkers Hypermarket in the EP Industrial League.
He finally hung up his boots in 1991 after 37 illustrious years.
He was buried at the Papenkuils Cemetery.