Phil Masinga, ‘giant’ of SA football, mourned
“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.
SA can do with more players of Phil Masinga’s calibre. |