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The South African Football Association has sent its condolences to Thabang Lebese’s family, his former teammates and the entire football family at the passing away of footballer.
Lebese, popularly known as ‘Chillies’ by his myriad of supporters, passed away after being admitted at the Helen Joseph Hospital in the past weeks. He was 38.
SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani said he was shocked when he learnt of the passing away of the former Kaizer Chiefs, Ria Stars and Orlando Pirates darling at such a tender age.
“This is yet another sad day and chapter in our soccer. Thabang was a role model for millions of soccer followers and his untimely death has once again robbed us of yet another soccer legend,” the SAFA President said in a statement.
Despite having only a single cap for Bafana Bafana, Lebese featured in 279 top-flight matches during his 13-year glittering career of which 220 were in his favourite Chiefs colours.
“At 38, Thabang had a lot ahead of him in terms of passing his football experience to aspiring youngsters. He was a soccer icon who was looked up to by many youngsters aspiring to be tomorrow’s soccer stars. May his soul rest in peace,” added Nematandani.
Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane said he was equally heart-broken by the distressing news of Thabang’s untimely death.
“He was a gentleman on and off the pitch and was an amiable character hence his unrivalled popularity among the fans. South Africa has lost one of the greatest talents soccer has ever produced. I am devastated,” said Mosimane.
* Sapa quoted the Gauteng health department as saying that the midfielder’s death was not caused by hospital staff negligence.
“Complications that the patient experienced were not as a result of the treatment he received at the hospital or as a result of negligence by any health worker,” said spokesman Simon Zwane in a statement.
Lebese died in Helen Joseph Hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, on Wednesday night aged 38, after spending more than a month in hospital. The nature of his illness was not disclosed.
Zwane said Lebese received all the necessary medical treatment as well as psycho-social assistance. “During his stay at the hospital, management met with the family and explained his condition and treatment that he was receiving.”
He conveyed the department’s “heartfelt condolences” to Lebese’s family and fans.
The Gauteng legislature’s portfolio committee for sports and recreation echoed these sentiments. Chairwoman Nompi Nhlapo said his death was a great loss for South African football and the sports fraternity. The committee hoped the country’s youth would follow Lebese’s example by working hard and maintaining a positive attitude.
Sport MEC Lebogang Maile said Lebese left a legacy of “wonderful memories of his football career” and would always be remembered as a legend.
“Our sincerest condolences to Thabang’s family. I was aware he was gravely ill and had hoped that he would recover soon. It was truly upsetting to learn that he had passed on.”