Phil Masinga, ‘gi­ant’ of SA foot­ball, mourned

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - MIHLALI BALEKA and MI­NENHLE MKHIZE See Page 20

“THE death of Phil Masinga means we have lost a gi­ant of South African foot­ball.”

That was the re­ac­tion from South African soc­cer boss Danny Jordaan as he joined the many trib­utes that poured in for Masinga, the leg­endary Bafana Bafana striker, who died yes­ter­day aged 49.

Masinga had been ill for some time but his death came as a shock to the SA foot­ball fra­ter­nity.

He played 58 matches for the na­tional team, and will be re­mem­bered for scor­ing the goal against Congo in 1997 that se­cured South Africa’s first World Cup ap­pear­ance in 1998 in France.

Jordaan said: “I am re­ally gut­ted. I saw him last Sun­day be­fore I flew to Dakar, and al­though he was not feel­ing well, he was in good spir­its and I promised to visit him again this week; now our hero is gone.

“Phil was a loyal ser­vant of the game, on and off the field. His goal against Congo which took us to our first World Cup in France in 1998 is still the most cel­e­brated goal in the coun­try to date.”

Doc­tor Khu­malo, Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana leg­end, was stunned.

“It’s a sad mo­ment for South African foot­ball, and through­out the world be­cause he was in­ter­na­tion­ally known. I’d like to thank the Masinga fam­ily for giv­ing us the op­por­tu­nity to be around Chippa. To me, es­pe­cially, he might have made me to be who I am to­day. Re­mem­ber in the game when you give the fi­nal pass, the fin­isher is the most im­por­tant per­son and he is the one that made me look bet­ter.”

For­mer Bafana cap­tain Lu­cas Radebe, who shared many glo­ri­ous mo­ments with Masinga in the na­tional team and at English foot­ball club Leeds United, said Masinga had “rare qual­i­ties”.

“He was qual­ity. He was very straight­for­ward. He al­ways said what he felt, whether it was neg­a­tive or pos­i­tive. That’s what I liked about him. Phil had a great heart. When we needed him, he de­liv­ered.

“South Africa didn’t only lose the tal­ent of Phil but lost some­body who would have given back to South African foot­ball. He would have in­spired a lot of young­sters.”

Hel­man Mkhalele, who played along­side Masinga at Jomo Cos­mos, said: “His pass­ing has af­fected me in a big way.

“When a num­ber of play­ers ar­rived at Jomo Cos­mos for the first time, he was there to wel­come them.

“He made sure they felt at ease so that they were able to per­form to the best of their abil­i­ties.”

Leeds United and for­mer play­ers who played with Masinga over­seas also tweeted their con­do­lences.

THE DIS­CERN­ING foot­ball fan will know that there was more to Phil “Chippa” Masinga than “that goal”.

Of course that thun­der­ous strike which earned South Africa a maiden par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Fifa World Cup will al­ways be the high­light of Masinga’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, Masinga had al­ready proven him­self to be one of SA’s most pro­lific strik­ers.

Back in 1991, in the 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 Masinga 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 highly com­pet­i­tive Serie A 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, Masinga was not your typ­i­cal SA 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 boys that would have bro­ken many a player.

But Masinga kept on go­ing, scor­ing goals and cel­e­brat­ing them by go­ing to­wards the 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 SA game – help­ing Bafana win the 1996 Africa Cup of Na­tions and qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup, while star­ring at club level.

His play­ing aside, Masinga was a very strong char­ac­ter who stood up for what he be­lieved.

At the 1998 World Cup in France, he had a fight with coach Philippe Troussier after the French­man wanted to play him de­spite him be­ing in­jured.

With cap­tain Radebe not stand­ing up for him, Masinga made it clear to the “White witch doc­tor” that he was not play­ing and a few min­utes be­fore kick­off 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, Masinga cut a sorry sight – typ­i­cal of SA stars who have fallen on hard times.

But his 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 the SA na­tional team.

SA can do with more play­ers of his cal­i­bre and hon­est men like him.

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SA can do with more play­ers of Phil Masinga’s cal­i­bre. |

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