Friday, 19 October 2012

Bafana Bafana assistant coach Thomas Madigage dies in road accident driving to visit his sick mother

Tragic: Thomas Madigage and Gordon Igesund

THOMAS MADIGAGE is dead. The Bafana Bafana assistant coach, loved by all, passed away last night on the notorious 145km stretch of the R37 between Burgersfort and Polokwane on his way to visit his sick mother.

There is no easy way to convey news of that nature. Confirmation of Madigage's passing came at first light and the outpouring of grief on the social networking sites offers the first hint of just how popular the "man in the hat" was in this country.

SuperSport United chairman Khulu Sibiya said this morning: "I'm devastated. As a footballer, let me tell you, I still have great memories of him as a 16-year-old boy. I remember when we beat Kaizer Chiefs, he scored this amazing goal to win the BobSave.

"Thomas was just a pillar of strength. He was just complete. Off the field, what a perfect gentleman. He would never pass somebody without greeting. We have lost a perfect human being.

"Thomas did not see a footballer. He saw a person. When we signed a new youngster, he would take him aside and find out how he lived. He knew every player's family."

Bafana Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo said: "I will forever remember and learn from Thomas. I am devastated by his loss which will leave a huge void in my life. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. RIP Tommy. I will miss you, but will never forget you and will do whatever possible to make sure your legacy endures on and off the field of play."

Wrecked: Thomas Madigage's car after the accident
Madigage hit an animal on the notorious stretch of road and died on the scene. My friend Lucy Magkopa, who lives in the area and travels there regularly, confirms that donkeys and cows often stray on to the road, unfenced for long stretches.

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the Limpopo police said: "We can confirm that Thomas was alone in the vehicle. He passed away last night between 10pm and midnight. There was one car towing a caravan in front of him. That car managed to swerve and avoid the donkey but he could not. His car hit it."

Madigage was 41. Famous for his "lucky" ZCC hat and touchline celebrations, he was taken before his time, having recently returned from South Africa's Tuesday night 2-1 win over Kenya. Just as it appeared he was helping to create a side capable of doing the nation proud at AFCON 2013 next year, he has been taken from us.

In July, the SuperSport United assistant coach, who won three PSL titles with Gavin Hunt, was head-hunted by new Bafana boss Gordon Igesund.

Igesund said at the time: "I knew immediately who I wanted, it had to be Thomas. I called Gavin and he was reluctant to lose him. But I said it was for the country and he agreed. Thomas and I had a long chat about the hat! He's such a great guy."

While Igesund was too upset to talk this morning, Hunt said: “I’m absolutely gutted, absolutely devastated. We were more than work colleagues, we were great mates off the field.

“We spent hours and hours chatting about life; not even football, more about life. When he got the Bafana job he actually didn’t want to go. I said to him that he has got to do it. I do think that I pushed him over the edge to go.

“I told him it was a lifetime opportunity and I was so glad. If you look at what’s happened, that he had the opportunity to have a taste of it.

“He can rest well now. It’s just such a pity that he won’t be there for the Africa Cup of Nations in his own country next year.”.”

Madigage himself, typically self-effacing, said of his role with Bafan: “There were people with better qualifications who deserved this job more than me, but with the grace of God I have the opportunity to serve the nation and I am very thankful. We need the support of the country as this team belongs to every South African.

“I have had successful people around me - coaches like Shane McGregor Bruce Grobbelaar, Pitso Mosimane and Gavin Hunt – those are the people who have groomed me and allowed me to share my football knowledge with them.

“I also have to give thanks to the PSL for allowing me to apply my skills. SuperSport United deserve a lot of credit for giving a former player a chance to be on the technical team immediately after hanging up my boots because not a lot of clubs would have done that.

“I have known Gordon for 20 years and we have been on the opposite side of football teams in that period. We will be working together for the first time. I know he has great man-management skills and he has the ability to get the best out of his players. I know the players as I have been in the background and I know the mentality they have.

“We want to play winning football and we want to see results. We have a goal to at least reach the semifinals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. We should just look towards the future.”

Football journalist Mathews Mpete told eNCAnews this morning: "I know he was on his way to visit his sick mother. To us he was one of those guys who didn't want to be at the forefront.

"On Sunday, when Gordon had a stomach bug, Thomas had to talk. He was so happy to have beaten Kenya. He was a religious person who would pray for you. He knew football, he would spend all night talking football until 3am, entertaining us, enjoying music.

"It's a sad day for South African football. People like Thomas Madigage cannot be replaced." 

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