Mys­tery death of a soc­cer star

Sunday World - - News - CHUMANI BAMBANI

LESS than a month af­ter the death of Keryn Jordan, an­other for­mer Bafana Bafana player, Ben­nett Masinga, has died.

Masinga’s body was found on Fri­day morn­ing at his home in Stil­fontein, North West, but de­tails re­mained sketchy at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Phil Masinga, the 48-year-old’s cousin and for­mer team­mate, ex­pressed shock at the death of the for­mer striker.

I re­ceived a call to say he was found dead that morn­ing. He was stay­ing on his own in Khuma in Stil­fontein.

The death came as a big shock to the fam­ily be­cause he was look­ing fit and healthy when we last saw him,” Phil said.

For­mer Sun­downs man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Natasha Tsich­las was still in shock yes­ter­day from the news.

That phone call that gave me the news was one of the most painful I’ve ever re­ceived. I still can­not be­lieve it. I did not sleep as all the pic­tures and mem­o­ries of Ben­nett came back to me.

He was a le­gend, a re­ally big le­gend in South Africa, not only for Sun­downs, but for the na­tional team, too. He was more than just one of the best play­ers, but part of my fam­ily, the Sun­downs fam­ily and fam­ily to many other South Africans.

Ben­nett was loved by ev­ery­one in foot­ball cir­cles, but most im­por­tantly he gave so much love to those he came across. I also learnt so much from work­ing with him as a young player. He will be sorely missed. My heart re­ally breaks, and I pray God will give all of us strength be­cause this is a big loss.”

For­mer Downs boss An­gelo Tsich­las added that Masinga played a key role in the suc­cess of the club in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He was one of the great­est play­ers in Sun­downs’ golden era. He will be re­mem­bered for his role and goals that won the club lots of tro­phies.” Masinga, known as Ben­ito” and Lover­boy to his many fans, was born in Klerks­dorp where he be­gan his pro­fes­sional ca­reer for Klerks­dorp City. He scored on de­but in Fe­bru­ary 1986 as City beat Wit­bank Aces.

The fol­low­ing year he moved to Pre­to­ria, where he joined Mamelodi Sun­downs and made a name for him­self in a stint span­ning from 1987 to 1994. He went on to play for Seven Stars, Hel­lenic, Santos, Man­ning Rangers and Mthatha Bush Bucks.

He made five ap­pear­ances for Bafana Bafana be­tween 1992 and 1993, and scored one goal in the team’s third match af­ter read­mis­sion to the in­ter­na­tional stage, against Cameroon in a 2-2 draw which saw him and his cousin Phil get­ting on the scor­ers’ sheet.

That game at FNB Sta­dium in 1992 re­mains one of many trea­sured mem­o­ries his cousin car­ries.

He leaves me with so many great mem­o­ries. He was in a class of his own as a player. He was dif­fer­ent. He was short and a lot of op­po­nents thought be­cause of his size he posed no dan­ger, yet he would go on to give them lots of prob­lems,” Phil said.

I grew up with him, and he was my ev­ery­thing my men­tor, my brother, my in­spi­ra­tion. I al­ways wanted to em­u­late him. I’ve al­ways said he was a much bet­ter player than I ever was.

He was def­i­nitely one of the best strik­ers this coun­try has ever seen. He was such a hum­ble, quiet, shy guy.”

For­mer Bafana coach Clive Barker also paid trib­ute to Masinga: Ben­nett was a mar­vel­lous, tal­ented player. He was an ab­so­lute su­per­star. This is a big loss. I’d like to send my deep­est con­do­lences to the Masinga fam­ily.”

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