Tribute to “Hliph: Gone too soon

2015-10-29 06:00
 Ceciil Lolo is mourned nationally.

Ceciil Lolo is mourned nationally.

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When a friend informed me about the news of Sonwabile Cecil Lolo’s passing on Sunday, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets.

This facial expression was brought about by a sense of disbelief and a certain kind of 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 true. Cape Town and South Africa is mourning.

In our line of duty as journalists, we more often than not develop relations with the people we write stories about.

Bosom buddies we might not have been, but I knew the 27-year-old as someone who was always up for a 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 final.

I had been speaking to Prince Nxumalo. Next thing I know,

Lolo is on the line, having grabbed the phone from his teammate upon realising I was on the line. True to his crazy and energetic nature, there was no greeting.

He shot: “Ekse bro Lungaz, vuka maan! Hey ndithi vuka, vuka, vuka.” We had a brief chat and I wished him well for the game. He said I should not worry because “we are going through to the final”. And 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 robbing us of our stars is a spectre hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles- e know it can strike anytime, yet we pray it doesn’t.

But, for me, the most saddening and heartbreaking part about Lolo’s death is that it happened at a time when his career was skyrocketting. Since he got promotion to the Ajax first team, he has for the most part lived in the shadows of other players. He wasn’t one to hog the spotlight.

He would quietly go about his business and never even once questioned his non-selection for Bafana Bafana. He was also knocking on that national team door though. But death had other ideas.

Death has put a halt to the success story that was Cecil Lolo. Aspiring Western Cape footballers from areas like Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga and Crossroads 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 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 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.

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. They hang on to hope because one of them has managed to make it straight out of the hood. 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 treasure the memories, Hliph mfowethu. Ekse vuka maan!

.This tribute first appeared in Soccer Laduma, of 28 October 2015.

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