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Radebe - A True Leader And Legend

Lucas Radebe is a household name in South Africa – having earned 70 international caps for Bafana Bafana – 44 of which were as captain.
 
He is considered one of the best central defenders ever produced by South Africa, and is a cult hero for English Premier League side, Leeds United.
 
Radebe made his Chiefs debut in April 1990 against Durban Bush Bucks during a period when the club were hiring and firing numerous coaches in quick succession, with Jeff Butler, Frankly Mbale, Sergio dos Santos and Philippe Troussier all having control of the reigns between 1989 and 1994.
 
Playing around 100 games, Radebe helped the club win the NSL title in 1991 and 1992, making his mark in both the 1992 BP Top 8 and BobSave Super Bowl Finals, where Chiefs outwitted Mamelodi Sundowns and Jomo Cosmos respectively.
 
But an overseas move was beckon­ing for the bright star, who played as a centre half under Dos Santos, and showed all the qualities of a truly determined individual both on and off the pitch.
 
Sometime before Radebe officially bade farewell to his Chiefs team­mates - Johnny Brookes (former Eng­lish international striker, who also coached in SA), who was behind the defender’s overseas transfer, almost lost his life in Durban.
 
Brookes, a close friend of Howard Wilkinson, the then Leeds United manager and foot­ball agent, started working behind the scenes to ensure the player’s move went as smoothly as possible – but little did they know that there were other men allegedly plotting to try to stop Radebe leaving Amakhosi.
 
“Kaizer Motaung had warned me of the possible danger,” Brookes told Soccer Laduma. “He mentioned that I might even receive death threats. I was aware that I was treading on thin, yet I was determined to see the deal through.” The transfer was far from Brookes’ mind as he went to play a few holes of golf at Durban’s Wind­sor Park. However, when something whistled past his left ear, the serious­ness of the situation hit him.
 
“I suddenly realised it was a bullet as we ducked into the nearest bush,” he recalls. “From our covered pos­ition we saw people at the nearby railway station, so it was obvious that the shot came from that direc­tion. Nobody back home in England would believe my story.”
 
It was only after his return to South Africa that the loose ends of the agreement to send the dogged defender to Leeds were eventually tied up.
 
“The whole thing was kept secret,” Brooks concluded. “Even President Nelson Mandela had to be roped in to assist Radebe in obtaining a work permit because the English FA re­garded his transfer fee of £250 000 as too low for an international player.” Bafana and Leeds United thrive under ‘Rhoo’
 
When the Bafana Bafana defender, who made his international debut against Cameroon on 7 July 1992, officially became a Leeds United player in September 1994 - he was interestingly the sixth South African to grace Elland Road after Gordon Stewart (1951), John Hastie (1952), Gerald Francis (1957-1961) Albert Johanneson (1960- 1969) and Phil Masinga (1994 - 1996).
 
In early 1995, two years before Radebe proudly replaced Neil Tovey as national captain and three years prior to being given the Leeds armband, the popular player suffered a serious cru­ciate knee ligament injury.
 
In fact, during his long career, the dedicated captain was somewhat hampered by injury. For example, in March 2001 during a Champions League clash with Real Madrid, he twisted his right knee and was ruled out for the rest of that season.
 
Furthermore, he missed the 2002 Afcon and in August 2004 during his testimonial year, the Leeds skipper was stretchered off against Wolves with a suspected Achilles tendon rupture.
 
Yet, despite these setbacks, Rhoo always rose to the occasion, over­coming adversity to courageously help both club and country on the field. He was a key player when South Africa crushed Tunisia 2-0 in the 1996 Afcon Final, captained Bafana Bafana at two World Cups (France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002), while the legend also faced Aston Villa at London’s famous Wembley Stadium during the 1996 English League Cup Final.
 
The man known for his accur­ate passing, excellent marking and strong leadership qualities, followed in the footsteps of Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Gordon Strachan and Gary McAllister when hon­oured with the Leeds captaincy. He hung up his boots at the end of the 2005 season after representing the Yorkshire outfit on just over 200 occasions, having two years earlier retired from international football with 70 Bafana caps, the last against England, his 44th match as skipper.
 
Leeds’ Rock of Gibraltar, who in December 2000 was honoured with the Fifa Fair Play award, will always be remembered in the annals of foot­ball history.
 

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