ONCE upon a time, in Norway Street, Maitland, there was a player, a left-sided midfielder, with a reputation for bulldozing his way past and through opposing defenders – like a tank.

His name was Bartholomeus Stuurman, and in parts of Maitland near his home, both friend and foe knew him as ‘Goerie’, or ‘Goera’.

When his career took off, he became the stuff of football folklore.

And yet, in a recent interview he admitted: ‘The beautiful game was not my first love.’

Neither, for that matter, was it his second love.

Like all other boys of his age, he played street football.

But in Norway Street, where he spent his entire childhood and young adult life, Stuurman was known as the boy who wanted to box

‘I wanted to be a boxing champion,’ he says.

 ‘And I wanted to learn sign language.

He quickly became adept at communicating with the hearing impaired. It was a skill he valued, but it was also a skill that he was keen to share with his friends.

It gave him great pleasure to see his friends having conversations with the deaf. He felt, correctly, that it broke down barriers – and broadened the circle of friends in the neighbourhood.

In Norway Street, football matches were contested with balls of any size or type. ‘We even soaked tennis balls in paraffin to increase their size,’ he says.

Stuurman says he was encouraged by his brother, Fanie, to switch from boxing to football. ‘I held Fanie in high esteem, having always regarded him as my mentor,’

But, if truth be told, it was not a hard decision to make.

A passion for football was already growing by then, and his love for the game intensified when a football club, appropriately named ‘Norway Parks’, was established in the house in which he lived.

At the age of 16, he had become a regular in the Norway Parks Under-18 side.

Fearless, menacing, strong – and with excellent natural skills, Stuurman did not take long to force his way into the club’s second team.

He was involved in some epic matches – especially against arch-rivals Saxon Rovers, who often assigned two players – Danny page and Kalla Blaauw – to try to man-mark him, but with little success.

His biggest highlight, he says, was being a member of the Norways Parks side that won the Maggot Trophy in 1960 and playing provincial football from the age of 21.