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Football and Society: Cele’s death should not be the end of hope and aspiration

Football and Society: Cele’s death should not be the end of hope and aspiration

Cele deserves all our respect, and has be remembered for more than what he gave us on the field. He was, also, more than a star or a sportsperson, he was a South African taken away from us by the scourge of road violence that takes away young people – many often in the prime of their lives. By ISMAIL LAGARDIEN.

Within hours of scoring the opening goal in Maritzburg United’s match against Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium, Mondli Cele, was dead. Aged 27, and in the prime of his career, Cele was a victim of South Africa’s road violence. Cele died in an early-morning accident in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. Transport officials from KZN said Cele was in a vehicle with three others when the driver lost control, plunging the car into a nearby river. It has been reported that Cele lost control of the car during heavy rains in Pietermaritzburg last night.

His club management were distraught when they heard the news of Cele’s death. Maritzburg United chairperson, Farook Kadodia said, “His character both on and off the field was impeccable.”

Cele’s death places life, and especially football, in such clear context. His death cannot, however, be the end of hope for young and aspiring professional footballers. In life, Cele remains an example for all aspiring footballers. The first lesson, is that it is never too late to make it to the top. Cele earned his first call-up to international duty in December 2014, barely six months as a professional, when he was included in coach Shakes Mashaba’s provisional 34-man squad, to compete in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. The second was hard work and humility; vital elements of success in football and in life. Indeed, when Cele made the leap from playing in the third tier of South African football (for Gamalakhe United, Port Shepstone) to Maritzburg United, he pointed to hard work and humility that drove him. This is how we must remember Mondli Cele.

Cele deserves all our respect, and has be remembered for more than what he gave us on the field. He was, also, more than a star or a sportsperson, he was a South African taken away from us by the scourge of road violence that takes away young people – many often in the prime of their lives. By one estimate 80% of the 4,500 crash fatalities in 2015 involved adults and males between the ages of 19 and 34.

In the same Sunday newspaper that ran a picture of Cele scoring his goal the previous day, an advertorial feature headlined, “’Enough is Enough’” with road deaths, declares Minister,” Dipuo Peters, showed that 1,755 people were killed on South African roads between 1 December 2015 and 11 January 2016. Most of the road deaths reported in Minister Peters’ report were in KwaZulu Natal. DM

Photo: Maritzburg United winger Mondli Cele (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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