Coach, soccer administrators and politicians all lament death of talented Gift Leremi
The death on Monday of Gift "Continental" Leremi robbed Bafana Bafana of a potential star and a very popular player.
Leremi, 22, died in a car accident on his way home on Monday night after playing in Cameroon on Saturday where Mamelodi Sundowns lost 1-0 to Astres de Douala in a Confederation's Cup game.
He was introduced to professional soccer by Orlando Pirates after being promoted from their development academy in 2002. He scored on debut for Sundowns when they beat Bloemfontein Celtic 4-1 in a SAA Supa 8 match. He scored again when they lost to AmaZulu in a Castle League fixture.
The player, who in the past made headlines for all the wrong reasons, was beginning to win the confidence of many soccer followers. It was speculated that he would be back to rock the football scene once again.
Shocked Safa president Molefi Oliphant yesterday said: "I still can't believe Gift is no more. The boy had massive talent. We were looking up to him to represent Bafana Bafana during the 2010 World Cup.
"Gift was one of a rare breed of players who was able to fire a thunderous shot with either his left or right foot."
The SA Football Players Union said: "Leremi's football skills will be sorely missed . He played a very important role for all our junior national teams. He will be remembered for his contribution."
The Socialist Party of Azania said: "As a party, we knew and loved Gift as an exceptionally talented player. We rated him alongside great players of yesteryear like Teenage Dladla, Jomo Sono, Ace Ntsoelengoe and many others.
"Indeed, he was a rare gift to our football-crazy nation and a role model for up-and-coming players. We are really saddened by his sudden departure."
Pimville Young Stars' boss, Phudi Ditsheho said: "I have known Gift as a child. It's such a painful thing to have lost him at such a tender age."
Augusto Palacios, pictured, who is credited with developing Leremi, said: "Gift was one of the players who had a special place in my heart. Despite having left Orlando Pirates, we still talked a lot. I spoke to him last week."
Themba Tshaba- lala of the SA Schools Football Association said: "He was a sociable, snazzy dresser."
While Under-23s manager Barney Kujane said: "We have qualified for the group stages of the Beijing Olympics because of players like Gift."