Maritzburg mourns Cele

2016-01-18 12:50
Mondli Cele celebrates after scoring his goal during the Absa Premiership match between Maritzburg United and Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday.

Mondli Cele celebrates after scoring his goal during the Absa Premiership match between Maritzburg United and Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday. (Gallo Images)

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Pietermaritzburg - Bafana call-up and local fan favourite Mondli Cele netted his final goal on Saturday before his celebrations took a tragic turn.

The up-and-coming Maritzburg United midfielder died after an accident in Pietermaritzburg early on Sunday morning.

Cele initially “showed no signs of life” when he was hauled from his mangled vehicle, but paramedics resuscitated him and he clung on to life.

However, the 27-year-old died in hospital shortly afterwards.

Police confirmed that Delisile Ngwenya, a sports reporter at the SABC, also died in the crash on Park Drive.

After netting the opening goal in the drawn clash between United and Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday, celebrations were in order for Cele.

A source close to the player, who asked to remain anonymous, said Cele, Ngwenya and two other women left to “celebrate” after his team held Pirates 3-3.

It is believed that Cele, who was driving a white Nissan Almera, veered off the road and crashed into the Duzi River near the Pietermaritzburg BMX Club in Alexandra Park.

The incident happened at about 5 am yesterday.

Police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said the cause of the accident is unknown at this stage, but the vehicle has been impounded pending a full test.

Reaching the accident scene first, an ER24 paramedic waded through the current with the help of a bystander and stood on top of the mangled wreck, which was submerged roof-down in the water.

ER24 spokesperson Chitra Bodasing said Cele showed no signs of life when the pair pulled him from the vehicle.

Bodasing said paramedics resuscitated Cele and rushed him and the two other women — who had managed to get out of the vehicle — to hospital.

Ngwenya was found dead in the vehicle and the police’s search-and-rescue unit pulled her body from the wreckage.

It is believed the car did not belong to Cele.

Cele’s colleagues and family gathered for a prayer at the crash site yesterday afternoon, where his sister Cindy Cele told The Witness that they were “devastated”.

“He was a breadwinner, a brother, a friend and a father of two. He had so many plans and he loved his family more than anything,” she said.

“He was a responsible and loving man. He followed his father’s footsteps in playing soccer and even when he rose to fame, he remained humble.”

Maritzburg United chairperson Farook Kadodia said the players would be given time to mourn their late teammate. “They were all very close, and you could see how emotional they were when they got to the scene of the accident,” he said.

Kadodia said they would ask for their next league game — against Golden Arrows in Chatsworth on Saturday — to be postponed.

Mandla Ncikazi, the club’s former coach, believed the Durban-born Cele was destined for great things.

The heartbroken Ncikazi, who discovered Cele, said he had known the young midfielder when he first tried out at Thanda Royal Zulu and AmaZulu.

But, it was Ncikazi’s close relationship with Cele at Gamalakhe United on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast that saw the then 25-year-old sign a contract with the Premier League Team of Choice.

“I told them to bring him so we can look at him. This was when Steve Komphela was still the coach of the club. We liked what we saw and decided that we were going to sign him,” Ncikazi said yesterday.

Six months after signing for United, Cele was called up to Shakes Mashaba’s Bafana Bafana squad, and Ncikazi believed the player had the attitude and quality as a footballer to make it at international level.

But, Ncikazi said, Cele needed to be playing consistently, and conceded that the number of coaching changes at the club had not been good for him. His form, however, was starting to pick up again.

“I saw him celebrate his goal against Pirates and it looked like he was starting to play well,” he said of Cele, describing him as a down-to-earth player from humble beginnings.

“He worked very hard to make something of himself, and this is really unfortunate,” said Ncikazi, who now works at Golden Arrows.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula paid tribute yesterday, saying: “I watched him play Saturday as he landed the opening goal, leading his club to a 3-3 draw with Orlando Pirates.

“I did not know I was watching him play for the last time. South African football has lost one of its brightest stars and is poorer without him,” he said in a statement.

Read more on:    mondli cele  |  pietermaritzburg  |  accident  |  death

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