LEEDS United legend Lucas Radebe has sent a moving message to the family of Nelson Mandela.
Radebe, a native of Soweto, had become close to the South African leader - and Mandela once joked that the player was his personal hero.
The former president and Radebe joined forces with David Beckham at a press conference in support of South Africa’s campaign to host the 2010 World Cup.
Today, in a letter posted on his website and addressed to “Tata” (Father), Radebe wrote:
There is much I want to say to you, and regret I will no longer have the chance. Having said that, I feel privileged to have known you, and to have benefited from your wisdom and example.
You taught me lessons of leadership, humility, generosity, courage and integrity. To say that you inspired me and my generation, would be an understatement.
My career would not have been possible but for you. The chance of playing at the highest level in football outside of South Africa did not exist before your release from prison. When times were tough in my early days in Leeds, away from South Africa, I drew motivation from your courage and tenacity. When captaining teams, whether Bafana Bafana or Leeds United, you were my role model for leadership. Your ability to bring people together for a common cause, despite their differences, was a great gift.
I think I speak for every player who pulled on a Bafana Bafana, Springbok or Protea jersey, and any other South African sportsperson, when I say that we never ever played just for ourselves or even our country. We played for you and the special ideals that you stood for. You taught me how sport could be an indomitable force for social change, and how it could impact individuals, communities and nations.
I was so proud to welcome you to Leeds, my home away from home, and I know the pride you felt in my accomplishments. It was so humbling. You will never know how much that visit meant to Feziwe and me. It was a day that will forever be etched in my mind. I always felt special that you had your own name for me, Mthimkhulu.
I know children were at the heart of your philanthropic vision and I promise to continue working in your image to motivate, help and galvanize South Africa’s next generation. Part of your legacy is that so many of us are stirred to carry the torch.
The sports history books in South Africa will show statistics and victories. What they won’t show, however, was that it was Madiba Magic that forged those results and performances; and united a country and its people along the way. No doubt, that Madiba Magic will live on. Thank you Tata.