Rest now ‘Waltzing Masinga’
One of South Africa’s greats has passed away and the world is poorer without his presence
THE DISCERNING football fan will know that there was more to Phil “Chippa” Masinga than “that goal”.
Of course that thunderous strike which earned us our maiden participation at the Fifa World Cup will always be the highlight of Chippa’s brilliant career.
But he was more than a one goal wonder.
As it is, way before that goal against Congo Brazzaville on that glorious August 1997 afternoon at the old FNB Stadium, Chippa had already proven himself to be one of the country’s prolific strikers.
Back in 1991, in the BP Top 8, Masinga delivered a performance so compelling that it tore the football fraternity into two.
Against Kaizer Chiefs in the final which his Jomo Cosmos side lost 4-3, Masinga was the star performer courtesy of a splendid hat-trick.
Incredibly, the judges awarded Amakhosi’s Fani Madida the Player of the Tournament award – leading to such an outcry that the decision was later reversed.
It was all up, up and away for Chippa thereafter with a spell at star-studded Mamelodi Sundowns preceding a move overseas where he first joined Leeds United along with fellow Bafana Bafana star Lucas Radebe. They loved him so much at Eland Road in his two years there that they called him “Waltzing Masinga”.
His quality was later proven by the fact that he cracked it into the then very highly competitive Italian Serie A league where he was in competition with the likes of Liberian great George Weah.
There were also spells in Switzerland alongside his former Cosmos teammate, the late Sizwe Motaung.
That he was making a success of his career overseas was lost on the fickle and often naive local fans who generally do not appreciate any player without ball skills.
Tall and gangly, Chippa was not your typical South African footballer and this was perhaps why he cracked the European leagues where direct play used to be more appreciated.
That goal in 1997 aside, Masinga was not a Bafana fan favourite and endured taunts from the boo brigade that would have broken many a players.
But Chippa kept on going, scoring goals and celebrating them by going towards the self same fans who were suddenly chanting his name and putting his hands to his ears asking them “where are the boos now”.
It cannot be denied that he made a telling contribution to the local game – helped Bafana win the African Nations Cup and qualify for the World Cup while starring at club level.
His playing aside, Chippa was a very strong character who stood up for what he believed.
At the 1998 World Cup in France, he had a big fight with coach Philippe Troussier after the Frenchman wanted to play him despite his being injured.
With captain Radebe not standing up for him, Chippa made it clear to the White Witchdoctor he was not playing and a few minutes before kick-off Troussier had to withdraw him from the line-up.
In my last interview with him two years ago in marking the 20th anniversary of that World Cup qualifying goal, Chippa cut a sorry sight – typical of our stars who have fallen on hard times.
But the passion for the game still remained and he spoke his heart out as he always had, never sugar coating anything as he lamented the poor state of our national team.
Our country can do with more players of his calibre and honest men like him.