In 15 years as a football writer and editor I have seen way too many deaths in South African football. This mean-machine 11 died during their playing careers and in tragic circumstances.
I had the opportunity to meet, interview and watch these men play football and several of them were still on their way to realising their full potential when they passed.
Senzo Meyiwa’s death, at the height of his career and on the cusp of an exciting new chapter for the Bafana Bafana team, has sent a nation into mourning.
1 – Senzo Meyiwa (Died age 27)
Due to his captaincy of the Bafana Bafana side and Orlando Pirates at the time of his murder, 27-year-old Meyiwa’s passing was probably the most high profile ever in South African football. In the prime of his career, Meyiwa was gunned down in Vosloorus in October 2014 after reportedly trying to protect his girlfriend and pop star Kelly Khumalo.
2 – Sizwe Motaung (Age 31)
With 51 caps for Bafana Bafana and the greatest ever right back for South Africa, Motaung’s death from an Aids related illness in 2001 shocked the football fraternity. Motaung was a 1996 Africa Nations Cup winner under Clive Barker and starred for Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns before a career in Spain and Switzerland. He returned home to play for Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu.
3 – Oscar Ntwagae (Age 33)
The tough-tackling defender died in August 2010 at the age of 33 when he was tragically knocked over by a motor vehicle in a hit-and-run. This happened in Germiston after he had trained with Jomo Cosmos. Ntwagae played for Moroka Swallows, Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United and Platinum Stars and also won caps for Bafana Bafana.
4 – Fernando Matola (Age 25)
Mozambique international defender Fernando ‘Nando’ Matola, and his wife and two kids, were killed in a motor accident while he was in his prime at Black Leopards in 2007. The big defender was driving from Johannesburg to Maputo for a Nations Cup Qualifier when his car veered off road and went up in flames. Mozambique’s most capped player and his family were burnt beyond recognition.
5 – Jeffrey Ntuka (Age 27)
Ntuka earned 5 caps for Bafana Bafana and was on the books of English club Chelsea, but played his European football in Belgium. He was stabbed to death in a drunken tavern brawl in his hometown of Kroonstad at the age of just 27. The killers were alledged to be his ‘friends’.
6 – Bafo Biyela (Age 31)
The former AmaZulu and Mpumalanga Black Aces midfielder died after an illness in 2012 when he was just 31 years old. The Empangeni-born anchorman made over 70 appearances for Usuthu before he was briefly loaned out to Aces. He played once for Bafana Bafana.
7 – Gift Leremi (Age 22)
Leremi was one of South Africa’s brightest ever talents with the skill, physique and desire to go on and star in Europe, but he never realised his full potential. He starred for Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns while earning 4 caps for Bafana Bafana before dying in a car accident in 2007 aged just 22.
8 – S’bonele Dladla (21)
A domestic dispute between Lamontville Golden Arrows and SA Under 23 footballer Dladla and his girlfriend ended in tragedy. ‘Teenage’ Dladla was just 21 when he and his girlfriend, Xoliswa Nompumelelo Radebe, began arguing according to police reports, which record that Dladla shot Radebe twice in the head
9 – Lesley Manyathela (21)
The man known as ‘Slow Poison’ died in a car accident in August 2003 on the N1 outside Musina. He was just 21 years old and was travelling with two other people to Musina having represented his club Orlando Pirates against Jomo Cosmos in the SAA Supa 8 cup at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg. Manyathela was a Bafana Bafana striker and had world at his feet having just been on trial in France and Greece.
10 – Abram Raselemane (30)
Ex-Bafana Bafana striker Abram Raselemane took his own life at the age of 30 in 2008 after an alleged argument with his wife. He began his career at Bloemfontein Young Tigers and also played for Santos and SuperSport United where he won the Bob Save Super Bowl, SAA Supa 8 Cup and Absa Cup. He played 16 times for Bafana Bafana.
11 – Scara Ngobese (29)
Wing wonder Emmanuel ‘Scara’ Ngobese died in Johannesburg after collapsing at home during May 2010. He was just 29 and had suffered from tuberculosis for some time. Ngobese started his professional soccer career at Moroka Swallows and played for Tembisa Classic, AmaZulu and Kaizer Chiefs. He featured once for Bafana Bafana.