Johannesburg – As the football world mourned the death of Argentina’s legendary and iconic footballer Diego Maradona on Wednesday, South Africa was already coming to terms with the death, tragically so, of our own football maestro Anele Calvin Ngcongca on Monday.
It has been a draining and emotional week not only for football but the entertainment industry as well, with the disturbing death of kwaito queen Mshoza last week.
Just like Maradona, both inside and outside his country, Ngcongca touched the hearts of all those who rubbed shoulders with him.
In Europe, especially, players and managers added their tributes to the hundreds of condolence messages sent, paying tribute to the former Bafana Bafana, Genk and Mamelodi Sundowns defender.
Ngcongca, 33, tragically passed away on Monday morning after he was involved in a motor vehicle accident on the N2 freeway near Mtunzini, as he was on the verge of donning the colours of Usuthu.
The ball juggler will be sorely remembered for his illustrious career that blossomed when he left his township home of Gugulethu, in Cape Town, as a naive but determined 19-year-old from first division side FC Fortune to join Genk in Belgium in 2007.
A football genius, a clean defender, he pursued his football career in Europe for just over a decade, amassing up to 300 appearances in Belgium and with Troyes in France on loan, a club currently campaigning in Ligue 2, before returning home to join Sundowns in 2016. With Downs he won the Premiership title on three occasions, while he was also part of the squad that won the CAF Champions League in 2016.
No doubt he had what it takes to touch the hearts of many
The likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois, his former teammates at Genk, hold the late Ngcongca in high regard as they poured their hearts out, lamenting how devastated and shocked they were on learning of the news of the South African football star’s unfortunate death.
A gentle giant, many would say, he represented his country at the World Cup in 2010 and at Genk his honours include the Pro League, two Belgian Cups and the Belgian Super Cup.
In honour of Ngcongca, Genk will retire the No 16 jersey following his untimely death. No doubt he had what it takes to touch the hearts of many, not only in the football world but in life generally, as those who know him better say he had not even reached the pinnacle of his career.
Most remarkably, he had all the hallmarks of a future leader, maybe coaching at club level. With his kind of level-headedness, he could have made a remarkable mentor, even perhaps with one of the junior national teams or Bafana Bafana. Who knows?
Many say there was something special about him, his demeanour, sense of humour and downright humbleness were some of his wonderful traits. His passing brings into sharp focus some of the local football gentle giants who died after horrific car crashes.
RIP Anele Ngcongca, Lesley Manyathela, Mondli Cele, Cecil Lolo, Richard Henyekane… the list is endless.
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