Afcon ceremony honours hero

The flags of the 16 countries participating in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 fly at Safa’s headquarters in Soweto.

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani; chairman of the Safa board, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyane; Mvuzo Mbebe, CEO of Afcon 2013; Robin Petersen, CEO of Safa; and Gordon Igesund, head coach of national football team Bafana Bafana, during Madigage’s memorial.

The flags at Safa House, the headquarters of the South African Football Association, fly at half-mast in Madigage’s honour.
(Images: Ray Maota)

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Ray Maota

What was meant to be a festive event to raise the flags of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2013 finalist countries was marred by the news of the passing of the assistant coach of South Africa’s national football team, Thomas Madigage. Afcon is held under the auspices of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The ceremony, scheduled to take place at South African Football Association (Safa) House in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg on 19 October 2012, went ahead as planned, but not before speakers from the leadership of Safa spoke about Madigage’s contribution to the game in South Africa.

Madigage was on his way to his hometown of Burgersfort in Limpopo province when he hit allegedly a donkey while travelling on the R37 between Polokwane and Burgersfort.

The 41-year-old played for some of the country’s biggest football teams during his career, including Jomo Cosmos – which he joined at age 16 – and SuperSport United, and added to his record an international stint at Swiss club, Grasshopper Club Zürich during 1990 and 1991.

Upon his retirement, he returned to SuperSport United, this time as assistant coach to Pitso Mosimane and later Gavin Hunt, and was part of team’s history-making performance in the Premier Soccer League, winning the title in three consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2010.

A brief memorial service

Following a moment of silence to honour the late official, Safa CEO Robin Petersen spoke of his sadness at hearing the news.

“Today I’m not only playing my role as Safa CEO, but also wearing my hat as a priest,” he said. “Although it was meant to be a flag-raising ceremony, we had to combine it with a mini-memorial and lower the South African flag to half-mast.”

Petersen said a delegation would leave after the event to meet with the Madigage family.

“Today is a sad day in the history of South African football,” said Safa president Kirsten Nematandani. “We are mourning the loss of a contributor to the development of the beautiful game in South Africa.” He first learnt of Madigage’s death through a phone call from South African national team manager Barney Kujane.

Nematandani appealed to South Africans to keep Madigage’s family in their prayers during these trying times, adding that the country flag outside Safa House would fly at half-mast until the end of the Afcon tournament in January and February 2013.

Raising the flags

Mvuzo Mbebe, CEO of Afcon 2013, said: “We deliberated this morning on whether to postpone the ceremony, but we ultimately reached a consensus that Tommy [Madigage] would have wanted us to carry on, as he was so passionate about football.”

Mbebe proceeded to congratulate the 16 finalist teams that will take part in the tournament, which South Africa agreed to host after original bid winners Libya suffered a civil war, compelling CAF to secure an alternative host.

The West African island of Cape Verde will be taking part in their first Afcon finals, after beating Cameroon in the qualifying round.

Dignitaries from the different countries raised their flags, while the South African one was first raised and then lowered to half-mast.

The tournament

Afcon 2013 will be the 29th edition of the tournament. The winner of the tournament will qualify for the Fifa Confederations Cup in Brazil later in the year as representatives of CAF.

South Africa won the title in 1996 when it hosted the event. The current defending champions are Zambia, who beat Ivory Coast in the final. Both teams will be back in 2013 to contend for the cup again.

The other finalists are Ghana; Mali; Nigeria; Tunisia; Morocco; Ethiopia; Angola; Niger; Togo; Democratic Republic of Congo; Burkina Faso and Algeria.