There’s nothing more heart-wrenching than waking up to the news of someone passing. That heartbreak was shared by a nation on Monday morning, as people driving to work were caught out by the news that Bafana Bafana’s new #1, Senzo Meyiwa, had passed away following a shooting at his girlfriend’s home in Vosloorus on the East Rand.
In recent months Meyiwa, a married man, has been in the public eye because of his relationship with celebrity girlfriend, Kelly Khumalo, with whom he had a baby.
On the pitch, though, his actions were never questioned. Meyiwa brought to the game exactly what the national team had been lacking in recent years – strong leadership. The goalkeeper could dictate the play from the back, without letting his responsibilities as a leader affect his form between the sticks.
Itumeleng Khune will always be the golden child of South African football but his recent lack of form, which some say may have come from taking his position for granted, allowed Meyiwa to earn his call-up.
A benchwarmer during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations under then-coach Gordon Igesund, Meyiwa recently made his mark as the team’s #1 with the added responsibility of the captain’s armband, a sign of the degree of faith new coach Shakes Mashaba had in him.
With Meyiwa came new-found form for Bafana Bafana, unfamiliar to fans of the national team. South Africa had become a team that played for pride and had a winning mentality. South Africa is currently top of their group in the Afcon cup group stages, with group favorites Nigeria in third place. A few months ago, who would’ve ever thought that would happen?
Several factors may have attributed to their recent success; without a doubt Senzo Meyiwa was one of them. His strength and likeability as a leader is reflected in the grief of his teammates, at both club and country.
Meyiwa, who was raised in Umlazi in Durban, began his footballing career at age 13 and patiently rose through the ranks at Orlando Pirates football club to become captain of one of South Africa’s biggest clubs and eventually lead the national team. Through all his successes, he won hearts with his humility.
In his final match in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinal on Saturday at the Orlando Stadium, Meyiwa led Pirates to a 4-1 win over Ajax. He denied the opposition time and again, despite playing on a wet pitch in heavy downpour.
A humble man with a huge amount of talent, Meyiwa will be sorely missed on the pitch and off of it. As a symbol of respect, the Soweto derby match meant to take place on 1 November between local rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates has been postponed. Pirates football club have also retired the #1 jersey worn by Meyiwa, which will forever remain a legacy of the shot-stopper at the club.
A nation has lost a legend in the making.