Celebrating Mzansi’s Great Leaders
Soccer Laduma and Ballantine’s Blended Scotch Whisky celebrate eight great Bafana Bafana captains and their career achievements at the helm.
Captains often vary in style and approach - some are very vocal and imposing figures who make their presence and feelings known to their squad, while others adopt a quieter, more subtle approach, choosing instead to lead by example and let their football do much of the talking. Regardless of their differing styles, these Mzansi greats have all had a massive impact on South African football. This week we feature Bafana legend, Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe!
First World Cup, first captain…
Lucas Radebe cemented his name in Mzansi’s folklore in 1998 at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille in France when he captained Bafana Bafana in the country’s very first FIFA World Cup game. At the end of that 3–0 loss, Lucas gracefully thanked Brazilian referee Rezende Marcio before ensuring his teammates shook hands with the French players in acknowledgement of their superior play. He went on to skipper his men to two respectable draws against Saudi Arabia (2-2) and Denmark (1–1).
Four years later in Korea/Japan, in what was a consecutive World Cup qualification for South Africa, ‘Rhoo’ carried out the coin toss and assured Slovakian referee Michel Lubos with a respectful smile that his teammates would be disciplined, as Bafana went on to draw 2–2 with Paraguay in Busan. Radebe finished the 2002 campaign with a goal in a 3–2 thriller against Spain and, most impressively, the Bafana team leader saw just a single yellow card in three games – an admirable record for a centre back.
Earning the moniker ‘Rhoo!’
In 1990, Lucas Radebe made his debut for the grand Kaizer Chiefs. Out on the streets, Amakhosi fans could be heard enquiring about the calm youngster they watched playing confidently in their central defence. The Diepkloof-born leader was voted South Africa’s Rookie of the Year in 1992, and Chiefs’ fans quickly gave him the nickname ‘Rhoo’, while his teammates nicknamed him ‘Lookaround’, a reference to his outstanding ability to read the game. From 1990 to 1994, Lucas made 113 Kaizer Chiefs appearances, winning two league titles, one Bob Save Super Bowl, two Castle Challenge Cups and three BP Top 8 Cups. However he would soon need to pack his suitcases as, in a far off land, Leeds FC beckoned.
How a captain became ‘The Chief’
The frigid weather and loneliness of England would test Radebe’s character to the extreme. However leaders endure, and within four seasons ‘Rhoo’ was named the captain of Leeds United Football Club. Leeds’ fans fully embraced the South African’s quality and affectionately dubbed him ‘The Chief’. Legends are also known to make history, and Radebe’s move to England meant that he had become the first black South African to captain a Premier League team. From 1994 until 2005, Lucas made 201 appearances for Leeds. In the 1999/2000 season, as captain, he led Leeds to its best ever season by finishing third in the Premier League. This result qualified Leeds for the following season’s Champions League and ensured that the legend of Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe lived on in the annuls of both English and South African football.