As the news of Philemon Masinga’s passing is still being digested by many around the world, it is befitting to look at the former Bafana Bafana icon’s colourful career.
The legend’s passing is currently making media headlines around the globe after he succumbed to a long undisclosed illness, and his passing was made public on Sunday.
With tributes still pouring in from people of all walks of life and from all corners of the globe, Goal takes a look at an illustrious career that made the Klerksdorp-born striker a true legend.
Born in Klerksdorp on June 28 1969, a small town in the North West province now known as Bokone Bophirima, ‘Chippa’ made his name as a footballer with Jomo Cosmos.
Although he launched his career with Kaizer Chiefs as a youngster, he rose to prominence as a professional player with Ezenkosi between 1990 and 1991 where he played on 88 occasions and netted 23 goals.
Under the guidance of Jomo Sono, the owner and coach of Cosmos, Masinga was scouted by Mamelodi Sundowns and stared for the Brazilians from 1991 until 1994.
With the eight time Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions, Masinga found the back of the net on 98 occasions out of 108 competitive matches.
His performances for Masandawana tempted English side Leeds United to come knocking at the door for his services and they successfully lured him to the English Premier League.
Along with Masinga, Amakhosi defender Lucas Radebe joined him as they became one of the first notable South African exports to the English top flight.
Masinga would spend two years with the Elland Road-based club and scored five goals in 31 matches, before moving on to join Switzerland’s St. Gallen in 1996, but could not score in 10 matches.
During the same year, the tall striker helped coach Clive Barker’s Bafana lift the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations trophy on home soil and it remains the country’s only continental trophy triumph to date.
His failure to find the back of the net in the Swiss League opened doors for him to join Italian Serie A side, Salernitana in 1997 where he starred in 16 games whilst scoring four times.
Following his stay with Salernitana, he impressed Bari in the same league and he was instrumental in their attack scoring a further 24 goals in 75 games.
In addition, he joined Abu Dhabi’s Al Wahda in 2001 where he put his name on the scoresheet on 130 occasions out of 253 matches, eventually choosing to hang up his boots in 2002.
There is no doubt that Masinga is one of the most celebrated icons in the South African football arena after his immense contribution to the development of the game.
He is one of the players that helped establish Bafana Bafana as one of the strongest sides in the continent and at the time one of the top nations in the world.
Together with the likes of John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu, Mark Fish, Radebe, Neil Tovey among others, their contribution will always be etched in history as they managed to do what no other Bafana side that has succeeded them has been able to achieve.
With Masinga, Shaun Bartlett and Mark Williams upfront, they managed to win the tournament with only one loss which came in the group stages against the Pharaohs of Egypt.
On the other hand, Masinga was seen as part of the ‘Madiba’s Boys’ (Nelson Mandela) generation where their Afcon glory was seen as a unifier resulting from the political turmoil that engulfed the country prior to 1994.
The legend will definitely be fondly remembered for his vital contribution during the 1998 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign.
Bafana resumed their campaign just after winning the Afcon, and they had to prove their credentials in the campaign by booking a spot at the global showpiece in France.
With a star-studded line-up and Bafana still in high spirits after their glorious campaign in the Afcon tournament, coach Barker knew they had to reach their first World Cup despite facing top sides such as Zambia, Congo and DR Congo.
While it is fair to credit the entire team, Masinga is the man applauded for taking the nation to France courtesy of his volley that beat Congo at the FNB Stadium.
Although he was a victim of the 'boo boys' on a number of occasions, Masinga usually silenced his critics by doing the job on the field of play.
Upon their qualification to the global stage, Masinga was part of the squad which was led by the then head coach Philippe Troussier who took over when Barker was axed, but they were unable to pass the group stages.
Nonetheless, Masinga will forever be remembered as a true legend of the South African game, and Goal would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the Masinga family, friends as well as colleagues who have certainly been shocked by the death of an icon.