South Africa’s soccer captain was murdered last weekend while attempting to foil a robbery at his girlfriend’s residence.
Goalkeeper Senza Meyiwa made his senior team debut last year and was elevated to the captaincy prior to the country’s last four Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Just hours before his death, the 27-year-old represented Orlando Pirates, which defeated Ajax Cape Town 4-1 to reach the South African League Cup semi-finals.
He joined the Pirates 14 years ago.
“This is a sad loss, whichever way you look at it, to Senzo’s family,” said the club’s chairman, Irvin Khoza.
South African president, Jacob Zuma, issued a statement on Monday bemoaning the loss.
“We mourn the death of this young soccer player and team leader whose life has been taken away at the prime of his career,” said Zuma. “Words cannot express the nation’s shock at this loss.”
International Soccer Federation (FIFA) president, Sepp Blatter, also expressed deep sorrow at Meyiwa’s sudden death. He conveyed his sympathy in a letter to South African Soccer Association president. Danny Jordaan.
“My heart goes out to his friends and family for the terrible loss of his young life,” said Blatter. “Senzo will be sadly missed by his teammates and fans of both Orlando Pirates and South African national team which he recently captained with great success in their latest qualifying matches. Please extend my heartfelt sympathy to all of Senzo’s loved ones and let them know that our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
Ephraim Mashaba, the head coach of the South African soccer team, wept during a news conference last Monday.
“Senzo was a very kind person,” he said. “I have never seen Senzo being sad or angry in the camp.”
Meyiwa was the second South African sports personality to die in three days.
Last Friday, former world 800-metre champion, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, was killed in an accident when his car overturned while he was on his way to an Athletics South Africa meeting.
Ranked first in the event in 2006 and 2007, he won gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester , the 2004 indoor world championships in Budapest and the 2009 world outdoor championships in Berlin.
Mulaudzi was South Africa’s flag bearer at the 2004 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Athens, where he won a silver medal.
“The nation has lost a true hero and one of our most disciplined and talented athletes who flew the South African flag across the sporting globe,” said Zuma.
Tubby Reddy, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee chief executive officer, said Mulaudzi’s legacy will live on forever.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by the unexpected death of our Olympian,” he said. “We have lost yet another icon in South African sport that raised the nation’s flag high in international sporting events.”
The first Black South African to be ranked number one in the world, Mulaudzi retired from the sport last year.