The tragic death of Maritzburg United midfielder
Mondli Cele in a car accident is one death too many.
This needs to be addressed. Now!
This is not the first road death of a soccer player in
the prime of his career, and, sadly, it's unlikely to be the last, as
much as we wish it to be.
Cele's death follows that of Ajax Cape Town defender
Cecil Lolo who died while the soccer world was still mourning the passing of Richard Henyekane.
In early April last year we awoke to the news that Henyekane's life had ended in tragedy at the age of 31 following an
accident in Bethlehem in the Free State.
Henyekane had made his name as a top marksman with
Lamontville Golden Arrows and Mamelodi Sundowns before joining Free State Stars
where his career sadly ended.
His goal-scoring exploits had even seen him represent
South Africa as a Bafana Bafana player.
And then six months later, on October 25, South Africa learned that talented Ajax defender, Lolo, had suffered a
similar fate in Khayelitsha, Western Cape.
Then, this past Sunday, we woke to
the news of Cele's passing in a car accident in Pietermaritzburg.
He had scored the first of the three goals in his
club's thrilling 3-3 draw against Orlando Pirates in their Absa Premiership match
only a few hours prior.
That is three professional soccer players who have died in less
Given that we have lost soccer players in car accidents in
the past, such as Gift Leremi who also died while playing for Sundowns in 2007
at the tender age of 22, but three in less than a year, should raise alarm
Every time a soccer player dies, soccer
administrators make a lot of noise about
how this scourge is going to be attended to and ensure that it does not keep on
claiming our players.
During Henyekane's memorial service and funeral, there
were hints and innuendos pointing to his
love for the bottle. Some suggestions were that he might not have been sober at the
time of the accident.
As Africans, we have this belief that we don't talk
ill of the dead. Even if that is the case, there is a serious need that
something is done and measures are put in place to ensure that we preserve our players and protect them from harm. Even self-inflicted harm.
This calls for a unified effort from all stakeholders
such as soccer administrators, soccer agents (or player managers as they prefer
to call themselves or intermediaries), the players' union and not least the
relevant government department.
The players' deaths are not isolated, but part of the
tragedy that happens on our roads quite regularly and a programme to decrease
road deaths needs to be devised and implemented soon as yesterday.
Condolences also to the family of Ukhozi FM Sports presenter Delisile Ngwenya who died
along with Cele in the accident.
May their souls rest in peace!
S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading
sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of
the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is
currently City Press Sports Editor.
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