Two things put South Africa on the map in 1994.
First, we held our first-ever democratic elections, which saw Nelson Mandela guide the country into a new era.
And secondly, our greatest ever football export left our shores to make his name in England.
On this day- September 5- in 1994, Lucas ‘Roo’ Radebe signed for Leeds United.
The dogged defender from Diepkloof went on to spend 11 glorious years at Elland Road, when Leeds were still a force to be reckoned with in English football.
He became a legendary skipper of the club, frequently features in global all-star squads, has had a world famous Leeds-based rock band named in his honour, and even has a local craft beer named after him!
Known as a fearless tackler, unstinting hard worker and inspirational leader, Radebe reportedly spurned offers from clubs like Manchester United and AC Milan during his time at Leeds, where he remains a cult hero, and one of Yorkshire’s favourite adopted sons.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, then United manager Alex Ferguson once famously said: “Everyone should be interested in Lucas Radebe.”
After moving to Leeds from Kaizer Chiefs in ’94, Roo went on to play 201 times for the club.
He also won his place in the South African national team, and was part of the victorious squad that won the African Cup of Nations in 1996.
An ambassador for South African sport, he soon assumed the captain’s armband for both club and country, and led Bafana Bafana to two World Cups, in France in 1998 and Japan and South Korea in 2002.
Radebe’s crowning achievements for Leeds- where his name is still chanted on a weekly basis- came in Europe.
Having helped them qualify for the Uefa Cup by finishing fourth in the Premier League in 1999, he scored a rare winning goal in the dying moments of the game against Spartak Moscow.
And after finishing third in the Premier League the next season, Roo led Leeds to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Leeds have never enjoyed such success in modern football again, and Lucas Radebe will forever be remembered as the dashing skipper at the forefront of their golden Premier League era.