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So Long, Cecil Lolo!

When a friend informed me about the news of Sonwabile Cecil Lolo’s passing on Sunday, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets.
My facial expression was brought about by a sense of complete disbelief and a deep shock. I immediately wished he would go on to tell me that he was merely pulling my leg. No… it can’t be Lolo! Not ‘Hliph’, as he was affectionately known. Not the bubbly character with the naughty smile. Not the steely Ajax Cape Town defender. Not the ladies’ man from Khayelitsha! Oh no… not him! 
But, sadly, it turned out the news was indeed true. Cape Town and South Africa are in mourning. It has not been a good week, if you consider that Monday marked a year since the passing of former Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa. For all those who came to love Senzo for the wonderful person and player he was, life has been tough without him. Even more disappointing is the fact that there seems to have been no progress in the drawn-out pursuit of his killers. ‘Nzori’, you may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten!
In our line of duty as journalists, we more often than not develop relationships with the people whose stories we present to the world. We might not have been bosom buddies, but I knew the 27-year-old Lolo as someone who would take your call any time of day to chat about football. It all sounds strange to me now that the last time I spoke to him, by chance, was on August 14 as the Urban Warriors were about to board a flight to Jo’burg, where they were scheduled to play Bidvest Wits in the second leg of the MTN8 semi-finals. I had been speaking to Prince Nxumalo. Next thing I know, Lolo was on the line, having grabbed the phone from his teammate when he realised I was calling. True to his crazy and energetic nature, there was no greeting. Just these screaming words: “Ekse, bro Lungaz, vuka maan! Hey ndithi vuka, vuka, vuka (Wake up, man. Wake up, wake up, wake up)!” We had a brief chat and I wished him well for the game. He said I should not worry because Ajax would be going through to the final. And that is just what they did. 
Yet again the carnage on our roads has claimed the life of a young South African footballer. It’s like a chronic disease. Road accidents taking our soccer stars’ lives is a spectre hanging over our heads like the biblical sword of Damocles – we know it could strike at any time, yet pray that it doesn’t. But, for me, the most saddening and heart-breaking part about Lolo’s death is that it happened at a time when his career was promising to skyrocket. Since he was promoted to the Ajax first team, he had, for the most part, lived in the shadows of the attacking players who have worn the red and white jersey – he was not one to hog the spotlight. He would quietly go about his business and never even once questioned his non-selection for Bafana Bafana, as most players usually do when they feel they are doing well at club level. Now, after that brilliant performance in the MTN8 final against Kaizer Chiefs, we have learned that a couple of Gauteng clubs were seriously looking at securing his signature. He was also knocking on the national team door. But death had other ideas. Who knows what could have been? 
The other thing that the sting of death has done is put a halt to the success story that was Cecil Lolo. You see, aspiring Western Cape footballers from areas like Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Nyanga have it tough. It’s almost like they have to work twice as hard to make it, especially if you consider that Ajax is the only Cape team represented in the PSL. As a result, most of these players eventually resign themselves to the reality that they will never turn pro, no matter how good they are. They play week in and week out in amateur leagues and tournaments, usually in front of decent crowds, always dreaming of showcasing their skills on a bigger platform. But no scouts ever come to watch them in action. It is also in these neighbourhoods that you will find young boys whose loftiest dream in life is to rob a bank. True! It is a battle of choices, both good and bad, and those who make the good choices sometimes never live to see their dreams fulfilled. So you can imagine when a guy like Lolo makes it… how his achievements occupy pride of place in the hearts of those who are hustling for the same goal. They hang on to hope because, if one of them has managed to make it straight out of the hood, then why not them? Spare a thought for those kids who looked up to him and also for a family that has lost a son and a provider.     
We will certainly treasure the memories that Cecil Lolo left us with on the football field and we at Soccer Laduma would like to convey our deepest condolences to Ajax, his family and his friends. 
Ekse Hliph, vuka maan!   

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