100 World Class South Africans: Lucas Radebe

A model sportsman

‘This is my hero.’ Madiba’s words to Lucas Radebe have been echoed by thousands of young South Africans, including our new generation of players currently playing for European clubs.

It’s a dizzying climb from playing with a ball of rolled-up socks in the streets of Soweto to the English Premiership League.

After going to the UK, Radebe almost quit after a few months, but then, he told The Sowetan, ‘I realised the opportunity I had, and the responsibility I had, not just of representing myself but also my country, and of the chance to open some doors for other African players.’

He spent 11 years at Leeds United (from 1994), remaining absolutely loyal – the only other team he played for was Bafana Bafana.

Neither Man United nor AC Milan could lure him away.

An all-round great footballer, the only position he hasn’t played is striker (although he has netted goals).

Radebe won the Fifa Fair Play Award in 2000,and the PFA Merit Award in 2010.

He has become known for his charity work, including the Starfish Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages, and in 2011 launched the Lucas Radebe U-17 Football Festival tournament to encourage and identify young talent.

Back in Leeds, an entrance at Elland Road Stadium is named after Radebe, the club’s mascot is called Lucas the Kop Cat and a local brewery makes Radebeer.

We say cheers to that!

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