Without Shoes, we're all poorer

JOHANNESBURG - He is considered in Mzansi circles as the most colourful player together with Doctor Khumalo to have ever graced the game of football since South Africa was re-admitted into the Fifa family in the early 90s.

He was a teetotaller through and through, would only speak to someone if spoken to and was religiously a bookworm. Not the type of attributes associated with a top football player.

Those close to him know him as a person whose words were well-measured, was calm and collected. He was a shy individual, humble, generous and affable but never one to sit back and stomach something he didn’t believe in.

John Lesiba ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu, the former Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs midfield maestro succumbed to stomach cancer on Tuesday afternoon watched by his former teammates at a Sandton Hospital after a long illness. He was 49.

Shoes’ death was greeted with horror and astonishment by the football family from Mzansi, Africa and the entire universe especially in Europe where he was a star for Fenerbahce, Bursaspor among other great clubs.

Born in Limpopo, the man football fans nicknamed Shoes because of his sweet passing, swerve and swagger, grew up in the Soweto township of Diepkloof and played for Kaizer Chiefs before he was snapped up by Genclerbirligi of Turkey in 1993.

The reserved midfielder-cum-striker played 73 times for Bafana Bafana and in the process scored eight goals for the senior national team.

Among his highlights in the Bafana Bafana shirt was in 1996 Africa Cup of Nations when he single-handedly destroyed Ghana’s Black Stars in the semi-finals of the Nations Cup scoring a goal and setting up the other two as the home side walloped the West African nation 3-0 on their way to winning the title.

On his return to Kaizer Chiefs from Turkey in 2003, he was 37 but continued to dazzle fans with his bags of trickeries which defied his age.

He left Chiefs when he was 42, underscoring his dedication to the game and discipline towards the sport that brought him fame and fortune.

At the time he rejoined Chiefs, Moshoeu who was a snazzy dresser owned nine cars which included a Porsche Boxter and a top-of-the range Mini Cooper.

After hanging up his boots, he bought the franchise of the ABC Motsepe club in Alexandra Township where together with former goalkpeeper Brian Baloyi continued to be a player coach.

He stunned his players late last year when he called them before training to tell them he was ill as his health started to fail him.

He was rushed to hospital two months ago but was discharged when he showed signs of improvement. However, on Monday, his ageing mother phoned Safa President, Danny Jordaan, former Bafana Bafana captain and his childhood friend Lucas Radebe and Kaizer Chiefs officials to his bedside at a Sandton Hospital where he had been readmitted. They all painted a sombre picture of his condition.

He died the following day with several of his former Bafana Bafana teammates at his bedside that included Mark Williams, Phil Masinga, Rudolph Seale among others.

Mzansi and the world will miss a true legend of the game, a gifted footballer, an amiable soul and above all, a gentleman of the sport.

At 49, Moshoeu was still at the prime of his life. He has gone too early.

He will be buried in Johannesburg tomorrow where throngs and throngs of football followers are expected to be gathered to bid farewell to one of Mzansi’s most liked football sons.

Rest in peace, Lesiba Moshoeu; without you in our midst, we are all poorer.

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