Durban ‘to honour our boy’

2014-10-29 00:00

SOUTH Africa will bid farewell to Senzo Meyiwa in the stadium where he once dazzled — in one of the biggest funerals KZN has seen.

And — a day before the funeral at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi on Saturday — the city of Durban plans a separate memorial service for the Bafana Bafana captain at an unspecified venue “to honour our boy”.

After days of anguish over the shock murder in Gauteng, Meyiwa family members said the funeral — expected to attract thousands, including cabinet ministers — is to celebrate his life and recognise the religious faith which saw the goalkeeper pray before each training session.

Yesterday, Orlando Pirates revealed that the KZN provincial government hoped to hold the funeral on Sunday to avoid overlap with the funeral of track star Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, but had changed to Saturday to “grant the Meyiwa family’s wish”.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, Safa chief Danny Jordaan; Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba; and fellow goalkeeping legend Itumeleng Khune comforted the family at their Umlazi home yesterday.

While his father, Sam, struggled to cope with both the loss and the swarm of government and media attention, his “other father”, former Pirates coach Augusto Palacios, was in tears.

Palacios told The Witness he remembered how Meyiwa — famed for his fearlessness — would cry after games as a young teenager. “He was a very emotional boy — he’d cry to himself if he had a poor performance as [a junior]; he was always worried about his performance,” he said. “But he would never complain. Instead, he would work. Senzo would change quickly in the dressing room and get out very early for warm-ups; I’ve seen him changing in his car.

“From a young age, he told me he needed his career to help his family, who were poor. Once fans boo’ed him after he made a mistake — it was tough for him, but he responded by making saves.”

Palacios said Meyiwa’s famed ability to save penalty kicks — including a number in the recent Afcon tournament, where he kept a record four clean sheets — was “not luck, but comes from practice going back to his teenage years”.

“Senzo would practise 40 to 50 penalties after each training session; he grew to understand the [angles], and how to intimidate the penalty taker.”

Palacios said he had burst out in tears when Irvin Khoza told him the news on Sunday night. “It is unbelievable; impossible that this has happened.”

And that he had had to help brief Meyiwa’s fellow players on Monday morning: “Many had heard of an incident but thought it must be a joke, until Monday morning.”

Meyiwa’s agent Mike Makaab recalled this anecdote from the star: “He told me how he and his brother had to man their father’s tuck shop in Umlazi, and how he asked his brother to cover for him so he could sneak off to soccer practice. He would return to the shop just before his father got there, so he’d never know.”

At Durban’s executive council meeting yesterday, deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala called for a moment of silence for the fallen star “from our soil”, and said the city “will … assist with the [funeral] venue”.

“We were all touched by this youngster,” she said.

DA eThekwini leader Zwakhele Mncwango called Meyiwa a “hero” and “one of our own”.

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