Trib­utes to ‘Big Phil’ as African striker dies aged 49

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS -

TRIB­UTES HAVE been paid to for­mer Leeds United star Phile­mon Masinga fol­low­ing his death at the age of 49.

‘Big Phil’, as some knew him, was the lesser in foot­balling terms of the South African duo signed by Leeds United in 1994, but his larger-than-life char­ac­ter made its own im­pres­sion in Eng­land.

Masinga came to Eng­land in a £275,000 trans­fer from Mamelodi Sun­downs in the same re­cruit­ment which snared Lu­cas Radebe from Kaizer Chiefs.

Radebe went on to be­come an icon at Leeds, a club cap­tain and am­bas­sador who was recog­nised as one of the Premier League’s lead­ing cen­tre-backs, but Masinga’s two years at El­land Road also earned him some af­fec­tion.

Masinga’s for­mer Leeds team­mate Noel Whe­lan tweeted: “Re­ally sad news to learn that a guy I spent so much time with, laughs and games to­gether has passed away, he was not just a friend and strike part­ner but one of the nicest kind­est guys I’ve met.”

A gi­ant of a cen­tre-for­ward at 6ft 4in, he was a more soughtafter player than Radebe when Howard Wilkin­son signed him, fresh from scor­ing 17 goals in the Sun­downs’ run to the South African ti­tle. Porto were in the run­ning to buy him and other Euro­pean clubs took an in­ter­est but the deal with Leeds was done be­fore the start of the 1994-95 sea­son. The story went that the ac­qui­si­tion of Radebe was in part about keep Masinga happy and fir­ing so far away from home.

Masinga was sold to St Gallen in Switzer­land. A spell at Bari fol­lowed be­fore his re­tire­ment through in­jury at the age of 32.

Back home in South Africa, Masinga made his­tory with the long-range strike which sent the Bafana Bafana to the World Cup for the first time in 1998. De­spite that goal, and a tally of 18 fin­ishes in 58 in­ter­na­tional matches, he was a tar­get for abuse from a sec­tion of South African fans and the crit­i­cism weighed heav­ily on him. The pass­ing years, how­ever, have cast him as a loyal ser­vant to the coun­try’s na­tional side.

Masinga had been fight­ing can­cer. His death was con­firmed by South African me­dia. A state­ment from Leeds said: “It is with great sad­ness that the club has learnt of for­mer striker Phil Masinga’s pass­ing.”

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