Family‚ friends‚ teammates‚ football administrators‚ supporters‚ politicians and religious leaders were gathering at Khuma Stadium outside Stilfontein in the North West for the funeral on Thursday morning to lay to rest beloved Bafana Bafana star Philemon “Chippa” Masinga.
The Jomo Cosmos‚ Mamelodi Sundowns‚ Leeds United‚ St Gallen and Bari striker whose thunderous long-range goal at FNB Stadium in 1997 had sent South Africa to its first World Cup – France 1998 – was to be laid to rest in the township of Khuma‚ where he grew up.
Masinga‚ the tall‚ lean‚ awkward centre-forward who scored goals in South Africa‚ England‚ Switzerland and Italy‚ died of cancer last Sunday in a Johannesburg hospital. He was 49.
The funeral procession‚ led by the hearse carrying the coffin draped in a South African flag‚ left from a outside marquee erected in the street in front of the Masinga family home in Khuma‚ where onlookers had gathered even as early as 6am.
One of Masinga’s two daughters‚ Tenyiko‚ was carrying a golden boot award the big striker had won in an SA domestic competition.
Khuma‚ outside Stilfontein – a small mining town‚ population 18‚000 between Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp – had come to a standstill to lay to rest its greatest hero.
Two huge marquees‚ with seating for perhaps 1‚000 people‚ on the Khuma Stadium field were slowly filling.
A group of some of South Africa’s best-known supporters‚ led by famous Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana fan and National African Football Supporters Association (Nafsa) coordinator Saddam Maake‚ travelled from Johannesburg at midnight‚ sleeping on a bus provided by Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa.