Hlompho Kekana on Thulani Thuswa: ‘Football will miss you dearly’

Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane and Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana during the memorial service of former Mamelodi Sundowns spokesperson Thulani Thuswa at Nasrec Memorial Park on June 9 2021 in Joburg..
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane and Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana during the memorial service of former Mamelodi Sundowns spokesperson Thulani Thuswa at Nasrec Memorial Park on June 9 2021 in Joburg..
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana has said Thulani Thuswa‚ the former communications manager of the Pretoria club who died in a car accident on Sunday‚ was a calming influence on the Brazilians.

Thuswa represented former Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane‚ now coach of Egyptian giants Al Ahly‚ in SA, and several players since he left the Brazilians in 2019 and started his own public relations‚ sponsorship and talent management agency.

Mosimane also attended and spoke at Wednesday’s memorial at Nasrec Memorial Park in Joburg.

Thuswa‚ much loved by the players and technical staff‚ was Sundowns’ media manager when the club won the 2016 Caf Champions League under Mosimane. He was previously in Kaizer Chiefs’ communications department.

Inconsolable Kekana — who had to stop in his address several times‚ visibly emotional — read out a letter he wrote to Thuswa.

“I’m writing this letter as a very heartbroken man. You promised me you were going to be there until I retired from football‚ and I can never imagine life without you‚” Kekana read.

“Look today‚ I am standing in front of people talking about you. I never imagined this day would come — not in my wildest dream.

“As you always smiled when I told you‚ ‘We have to face the sun.’ But today we are not — we are not facing the sun.

“Many of us will miss your smile as you have welcomed us with your smile. You never wasted your words to tell us you are a good person. You just know that you are a good person.

“With your smile‚ with your warmth‚ the [football] industry will miss you dearly‚ the entertainment industry will struggle without you. They know the impact that you have had on people.

“ ... Even when we were panicking you never used to panic. You always said‚ ‘I got you my man‚ I got you my man,’ with a smile. And we all know that you really meant what you were saying.

“I always say‚ ‘I will never tell you that I love you.’ But today let me just say it. I loved your smile‚ I loved everything that you have done for each of us at Sundowns‚ and as friends we will miss you dearly.”

Kekana was too emotional to finish reading the letter.

Broadcast journalist and chair of the SA Football Journalists Association (Safja) Velile Mnyandu said Thuswa professionalised Sundowns’ communications department.

“At the time that he moved from Chiefs to Sundowns, it was a time that you would say Chiefs and [Orlando] Pirates were a bit higher in the communication space‚” Mnyandu said.

“I would also say‚ Thulani moving to Sundowns was fate. Because just a few years after he moved to Sundowns he met a man who would play a big part in his life‚ Coach Pitso Mosimane.

“I don’t know if Coach Pitso was a father‚ or sometimes a son‚ or a big brother‚ but what I know is Thulani spoke about Coach Pitso daily‚ ‘Coach this‚ coach that’.

“Him moving to Sundowns coincided with this communications space — the evolution of the game in the country [post the PSL’s big broadcast and TV rights deals in 2007].”

SuperSport TV presenter Carol Tshabalala said Thuswa was a “special individual” in many lives.

“When I was asked to speak there was a moment of panic. ... But then I remembered Thulani’s words on many an occasion where I’d maybe feel a bit nervous — for example if I was nervous about interviewing former Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens — and Thulani would just look at me and say‚ ‘Don’t worry Shabba‚ you’ve got this’.”

Thuswa died in a crash in the early hours of Sunday morning.