South Africa mourns captain Meyiwa

senzo-1-text Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana Skipper Senzo Meyiwa’s life was cut shot in a robbery in Vosloorus in the East of Johannesburg (Image: Orlando Pirates Facebook).

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The South African football fraternity, fans and supporters, Orlando Pirates Football Club and South Africans at large are mourning the death of Bafana Bafana’s number one goalkeeper, Senzo Robert Meyiwa.

News broke late on 26 October that Meyiwa had been shot dead during an attempted robbery on Sunday night, at the home of his girlfriend, Afro-pop singer Kelly Khumalo, in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, a metro in Gauteng. “We have to brake (sic) normal protocol. We can confirm that Bucs keeper Senzo Meyiwa has been shot and sadly declared dead on arrival at hospital,” said the SA Police Services official Twitter feed. The police reported that “the incident happened at around 20h00, Zamo Section in Vosloorus. Reward of up to R150 000 is on offer 4 any info that can lead to arrest”.

Meyiwa last played on Saturday night, when the Buccaneers, as his club Orlando Pirates is known, defeated Ajax Cape Town 4-1 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, in their Telkom Knockout quarter-final. The goalkeeper has been in exuberant form lately. His death comes in the week that the biggest soccer match in the country is to played, between traditional rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on 1 November.

Dr Irvin Khoza, the chairman of Orlando Pirates, asked the league to postpone the match in honour of Senzo. It was most likely that he would be buried on that weekend, although the burial would depend on his family. The Premier Soccer League’s Brand de Villiers confirmed the postponement of the match in his honour.

“Senzo was not an ordinary player; he was the captain of the national team and Orlando Pirates,” said Khoza. “He came to Orlando Pirates at only 13 years old and I never thought he would be greatest of captains, but he showed us he could be.”

Dennis Mumble, the chief executive of the South African Football Association, said: “Sincerest of condolences to Senzo’s family. We his South African family are in shock and mourning with them.”

Born on 24 September 1987, in Umlazi, in Durban, Meyiwa played his grassroots football at a club called London Cosmos; he went on to join Orlando Pirates at the age of 13. He was the goalkeeper for the South African under-17 and under-20 national teams. He played a total of 137 games for Orlando Pirates and was part of the double and treble winning squad of the 2010/2011 and the 2011/2013 seasons. Pirates won six trophies during that period, including two league titles back to back.

He made his debut for Bafana Bafana on 2 June 2013 in a 2–0 away victory against Lesotho. He was included in the South African squad led by manager Gordon Igesund for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, but made no appearances. Then new national coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba not only promoted Meyiwa to replace an injured Itumeleng Khune, but also made him captain of a team that has been in the doldrums for some years.

Meyiwa responded to his promotion by leading the team to victories over Sudan and Republic of the Congo, and draws against Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, a country against which South Africa traditionally struggle. For the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, he played four times, with his last match being a 0–0 draw against Nigeria. He kept clean sheets in all the matches he played.

Some of Meyiwa’s career highlights include: 2014 Nedbank Cup Champion; 2013/14 Africa Champions League runner up; 2010/11 Absa Premiership winner, Nedbank Cup winner and MTN8 Cup winner; 2011/12: Absa Premiership winner, MTN8 winner and Telkom Cup winner; 2008/09 Telkom Charity Cup winner, SAA Supa 8 runner-up, Jet Club PSL Rookie of the Month, Telkom Charity Cup runner-up and Vodacom Challenge runner-up; and, 2005/6 Premier Soccer League runner-up and Vodacom Challenge winner.

Senzo is survived by his estranged wife, Mandisa Mkhize, Khumalo, and two children, one with each woman.

South Africans took to social media to express their grief over Meyiwa’s death.

“Beyond devastated at the loss of our captain and friend Senzo Meyiwa. Thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this terrible time,” tweeted Dean Furman, who plays for Doncaster Rovers in the third-tier in the English league, and for Bafana Bafana.

Proteas cricketer Wayne Parnell said: “Saddened to wake up here in New Zealand and hear such horrific news about the passing of Senzo Meyiwa.”

Mark Fish, a former Orlando Pirates player and Bafana Bafana legend, tweeted: “Devastated to hear the news about Senzo… Pirates and SA No1 goalkeeper… our thoughts are with your family… THANK YOU TRUE BUCCANEER!!”

Maria Ramos, the chief executive of Absa Bank and Barclays Africa, and the former director-general in the National Treasury, tweeted: “On behalf of all my Barclays Africa colleagues, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Senzo Meyiwa and the entire footballing community.”