JOHANNESBURG, January 14 – From South Africa to England and Italy and beyond, it’s clear to see how many lives former Bafana Bafana striker Phil ‘Chippa’ Masinga touched during his outstanding football career.
Masinga passed away on Sunday in Johannesburg after a battle with cancer at only 49-years-old, but leaves a lasting legacy for his achievements on the field, in particular, the goal he scored against Congo to take Bafana Bafana to their first ever World Cup, in France in 1998.
Alongside international teammate Lucas Radebe, the former Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns forward also enjoyed two years in England’s Premier League with Leeds United, where he is still very fondly remembered, with tributes pouring in from Leeds fans, as well as from the club.
“It is with great sadness that the club has learnt of former striker Phil Masinga’s passing,” Leeds tweeted. “The thoughts of everyone at #LUFC are with his family and friends.”
John Lukic, who played in goal for Leeds during Masinga’s stay, added: “Really saddened to hear about the passing of my old teammate Phil Masinga. Always had a smile on his face and a great example to all as to what could be achieved with dedication, perseverance and ability. Thoughts with his family and friends.”
Radebe went on to become the Leeds captain and remained at the club well after his Bafana teammate had left, but credited Masinga for helping him settle in at the Yorkshire club.
“For us, as Africans, it was a great experience,” Radebe told the BBC.
“We weren’t used to the weather and we struggled a little bit – we kept each other warm at times. Phil was a big hit with the team and the players. I looked up to him and I think he inspired me the most. It was absolutely great the way he adapted to the situation. He was easy to get along with and he was most respected at the club as a person.”
Between 1997 and 2001, Masinga played 75 games and scored 25 goals in Serie A for Bari, and the Italian club, now in the fourth tier, held a minute’s silence for Masinga at their match on Sunday, while Italian football fans have also been paying tribute online.
Marks Maponyane, the former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, has fond memories of ‘Big Phil’ and always knew he would be destined for greatness.
“We’d sit together and talk about scoring goals because we happened to be in the same area in Protea North when Cosmos players were staying in the area.
“He was a youngster that always had a nose and ambition to be the best and he was working towards that all the time and that is why he ended up having played well in England at Leeds and having played well in Italy also,” Maponyane told SABC.
Benni McCarthy, now the Cape Town City coach, is arguably South Africa’s most successful foreign import, having won the UEFA Champions League with Porto before finishing amongst the top strikers in England’s Premier League while at Blackburn Rovers.
McCarthy paid tribute to Masinga for opening the doors to Europe for other South Africans to follow.
“My tribute to Chippaldinho Masinga for paving the way for me and what he did for SA football. Legend, may your soul Rest In Peace. Gone but most definitely not Forgotten.”
Former Ajax Amsterdam, Everton and Bafana Bafana midfielder Steven Pienaar echoed similar sentiments.
“Very sad news for South African football, we lost a true football legend in Phil ‘Chippa’ Masinga. He paved the way for all South African footballers in the UK. That goal at FNB stadium that took us to our 1st World Cup will always be on my mind. RIP Legend.”
South African Football Association president, Danny Jordaan, had visited Masinga a week before his passing, and expressed his shock at the news:
“We have lost a giant of South African Football, this is a sad day for our football. I am really gutted. I saw him last Sunday before I flew to Dakar and although he was not feeling well, he was in good spirits and I promised to visit him again sometime this week and now our hero is gone.
“Phil was a loyal servant of the game, on and off the field of play. His goal against Congo which took us to our first World Cup in France in 1998, is still the most celebrated goal in the country to date.”
Confederation of African Football (CAF) Deputy General Secretary, Anthony Baffoe, was another to offer his respects.
“He was a great player and one of the best among his generation. South African football has been left with a huge vacuum. On behalf of CAF President Ahmad Ahmad and the entire African football family, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the bereaved family. Our thoughts are with them in this difficult moment,” Baffoe said.
After retirement, Masinga had a very brief coaching career with lower league side PJ Stars.
In his later years, he had been a member of the South African Masters and Legend Football Association, although current Golden Arrows coach and former Bafana Bafana captain Steve Komphela perhaps makes a valid point when he says Masinga was not given the platform he deserved to impart his knowledge on younger generations.
“He had lived a life so that we can share partly his legacy and also have an opportunity to tap into the wisdom and the talent God had given him. We’ve missed out on that.
“And maybe from now onwards, knowing South Africans, there will be everybody saying all good things about Philemon. But when he was still alive did we act right? Did we appreciate his presence? It’s a pity again.” (ANA)