My First house - Mark Fish

The 2010 World Cup is just around the bend. Despite all the politics surrounding what will hopefully become one of Mzansi’s most auspicious events, it’s good to know there are people in this country with sufficient experience in the sport to have a say in the procedures should they need to. One such person is soccer superstar Mark Fish, who was in fact one of a handful of ambassadors in South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We nearly lost Mark – or ‘The Big Fish’ as he is in known to soccer fans the world over – back in the mid-’90s when he was signed by Lazio of Italy, then Bolton Wanderers and finally Charlton Athletic – as one of the these teams’ highest-paid players. But he returned to his home pond in 2007 after an injury brought on the decision to retire.

So when did he buy his first house in SA? It was in October 1996 but he didn’t actually live there. Mark explains, ‘I was living in Italy at the time but my mother wanted a house and I told her to go and have a look at some places so I could buy one for her.’ Mark’s mom, Denise, went house hunting and found one in New Muckelneuk in Pretoria. ‘She loved it, so I bought it without even having to see it. I trust my mom’s taste you know,’ Mark laughs.

The house – a three-bedroom, two-bathroom affair with a ‘big garden, little granny flat and swimming pool’ was bought for ‘about R380 000’. ‘It was a great feeling to be able to buy the place for my parents. Especially considering my mom, step-dad and I had lived together in a small flat before that.’ Mark’s parents stayed there until last year, when ‘it was sold for R1,7-million’. The house was in good shape and and besides adding ‘a wall and one or two bits in the garden’ the family didn’t do any major renovations. (The current owners, however, are renovating up a storm, as can be seen from the picture below.)

‘The first house my wife Loui and I bought, that we actually lived in, was in Bolton where I was playing at the time. It was a beautiful five-bedroom spot with everything en-suite, an indoor pool and a lovely garden. It was near to the training grounds and city centre so it was perfect in terms of being close to work. We moved out in October 2000.’

Of the house he and Loui and their two sons (Luke, 10, and Zeke, 7) are living in now – also in Pretoria, Mark says: ‘It’s fantastic because of the land my kids can play on. The house is on an equestrian estate so the plots are a hectare or more. It’s a four-bedroom house, although we’re building a fifth for my eldest child, who wants his own room. It also has a games room and a pool – it’s really a great family home. Having lived in the UK it is quite a change,’ Mark laughs. ‘Loui used to shop at the high-street stores but she’s swapped that lifestyle for one that involves pattering after our kids and worrying about the ducks in the garden. In terms of shopping, I must say she’s done a great job of decorating the house, though!’

So, now we know what Loui is doing, what about Mark? ‘I’m involved with Absa and Milo (part of the Nestle Group), doing football development with 9- to 12-year-olds. It basically involves travelling around the country and finding our future gifted soccer players. Once we’ve found a talented team, we’ll be sending them off to play in Barcelona in July, which is hugely exciting for the kids. Football has given me so much and without sounding clichéd, it really is vital to give back to the sport by developing it. By taking what I’ve learnt from playing overseas and teaching it, I’ll be developing the very kids that we’ll hopefully see shining as South Africa’s future Bafana Bafana players. That’s really satisfying.’

Chatting about properties currently available in Pretoria, Mark says one can find great places: ‘I suppose Pretoria feels like home to my family and I, which is why we initially decided on buying there. Houses are usually a great investment, but they’re expensive. If you’re buying in Pretoria and surrounds, there are places you can make money on when you resell. You just need to look around and make good decisions.’

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