Rest now ‘Waltz­ing Masinga’

One of South Africa’s greats has passed away and the world is poorer with­out his pres­ence

Daily News - - SPORT - MATSHELANE MAMABOLO @Th­sili­boy

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.

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