Phil Masinga, 49; led South Africa to World Cup en­try

Woonsocket Call - - REGION/OBITUARIES - By GER­ALD IMRAY AP Sports Writer

Phil Masinga, the for­mer South Africa and Leeds United striker who scored the goal that took his coun­try to the World Cup for the first time, died Sun­day. He was 49.

The South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion said Masinga died in a Jo­han­nes­burg hospi­tal from a “can­cer re­lated dis­ease” just a month af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed.

He was trans­ferred last month from a hospi­tal in his home town of Klerks­dorp to the hospi­tal in Jo­han­nes­burg, SAFA said.

Masinga made 58 ap­pear­ances for South Africa but is best re­mem­bered for the fierce long-range strike against Repub­lic of Congo at FNB Sta­dium in Jo­han­nes­burg in 1997 that saw Bafana Bafana, then the cham­pi­ons of Africa, qual­ify for the 1998 World Cup in France.

It sparked joy­ous scenes in South Africa, a coun­try still bask­ing in the af­ter­glow of the fall of apartheid and the elec­tion of Nel­son Man­dela as pres­i­dent three years ear­lier.

At 6-foot-4, Masinga was the cen­ter for­ward for the South African team that won the African Cup of Na­tions in 1996, a multi-racial squad that made South Africans feel good about their soc­cer again af­ter years of iso­la­tion un­der apartheid. He was in the team in 1992 when South Africa played its first game af­ter be­ing al­lowed back into in­ter­na­tional soc­cer.

“We have lost a gi­ant of South African Foot­ball. This is a sad day for our foot­ball,” SAFA Pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan said.

Jor­daan said he vis­ited Masinga in the hospi­tal a week ago and had been plan­ning to visit him again this week. Jor­daan said the goal against Repub­lic of Congo was “still the most cel­e­brated goal in the coun­try.”

Masinga’s goal-scor­ing prow­ess with Pre­to­ria-based club Mamelodi Sun­downs led to a move to Leeds, then in Eng­land’s top flight, in 1994.

He was part of the same deal that also took com­pa­triot Lu­cas Radebe to Leeds.

Re­port­edly, Radebe was only part of the deal to keep Masinga, viewed as the more valu­able as­set, happy in a for­eign land.

As it turned out, Masinga was at Leeds for two years while Radebe stayed nine and went on to cap­tain the team and make more than 200 ap­pear­ances, earn­ing a place as a club fa­vorite.

Masinga didn’t de­liver the goals Leeds hoped for but he was still im­mensely pop­u­lar. A com­mon theme among team­mates who re­mem­bered Masinga was his pos­i­tiv­ity — al­ways cheer­ful, al­ways smil­ing.

Writ­ing on Twit­ter, for­mer Leeds de­fender Tony Dorigo re­called Masinga and Radebe ar­riv­ing in chilly York­shire with “smiles and hope” and ther­mal un­der­wear.

Cur­rent Leeds owner An­drea Radriz­zani tweeted: “We love to re­mem­ber you with a big smile and a white jer­sey on! R.I.P. Phil.”

Af­ter Leeds, Masinga played in Switzer­land, Italy and the United Arab Emi­rates in his 12-year pro­fes­sional ca­reer and had his best spell with Ital­ian club Bari.

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