Former South Africa captain Lucas Radebe says the country has lost a “legend” following his compatriot Phil Masinga’s death aged 49.
Masinga played with Radebe at Leeds United between 1994 and 1996 and also had spells at St Gallen in Switzerland and Italian clubs Salernitana and Bari.
“He lost his fight against cancer this morning which is very, very sad for us as a football fraternity,” said Radebe.
“We are mourning the loss of a great legend.”
Former central defender Radebe and striker Masinga were both signed by Leeds in 1994.
“For us as Africans it was a great experience,” added Radebe, speaking to BBC World Service. “We weren’t used to the weather and we struggled a little bit – we kept each other warm at times.
“Phil was a big hit with the team and the players. I looked up to him and I think he inspired me the most. It was absolutely great the way he adapted to the situation.
“He was easy to get along with and he was most respected at the club as a person.”
‘One of the nicest kindest guys I’ve met’
Masinga made his debut for South Africa in July 1992 against Cameroon in his country’s first match following their readmission to international football by Fifa after the end of Apartheid.
He will best be remembered for his goal against Congo, which ensured South Africa qualified for their first World Cup appearance in 1998.
“Very sad news for South African football. We lost a true football legend in Phil ‘Chippa’ Masinga,”said former South Africa and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar.
“He paved the way for all South African footballers in the UK. That goal at FNB stadium that took us to our first World Cup will always be on my mind. RIP Legend.”
Masinga was also a member of the victorious 1996 Africa Cup of Nations squad.
“Sad day for South African football,” said South Africa Football Association president Danny Jordaan. “He was a loyal servant of the game, on and off the field of play.”
South Africa’s Premier Soccer Leaguesaid there would be a moment of silence at all its matches on Sunday in honour of the former forward.
Bari also held a period of silence before their game against Sancataldese on Sunday.
Masingamade 31 league appearancesfor Leeds, scoring five goals.
“It is with great sadness that the club has learnt of former striker Phil Masinga’s passing,”said a statement from the Elland Road club.
“The thoughts of everyone at LUFC are with his family and friends.”
Noel Whelan played alongside Masinga at the Elland Road club and said it was “really sad news”.
“He was not just a friend and strike partner but one of the nicest kindest guys I’ve met,” added Whelan.
“It was a pleasure and privilege to have known and played with you Phil.”