Former Chiefs, Bucs star Lebese passes away
Former Ria Stars, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates star midfielder Thabang “Chillies” Lebese has reportedly passed away after a short illness.
Popularly as 'Chillies', Lebese burst into scene in 1993 making his official debut for Kaizer Chiefs against archrivals Orlando Pirates at the old FNB Stadium.
He went on to become a household name in the black and gold of Chiefs where he formed a telepathic combination with his friends Thabo 'TsikiTsiki' Mooki and Tshepo 'Chippa' Molatedi and later Frank 'Disco' Makua. Lebese later moved across to Pirates in 2000 via Ria Stars.
The passing away of Lebese comes shortly after those of Pirates webmaster and photographer Joseph “Shoes” Makati and long-time Pirates security Albert Hlongwane.
The SA Football Players Union (Safpu) expressed their sadness at the passing away of Lebese.
"He was a legend of the game and he contributed well enough to put our standard of football where it is today. He is one of those players who made our league (psl) what it is today and only die in absolute poverty. Another legend has fallen and our country and all the football loving people will miss him, Rest In Peace Chillies we will keep the spear burning," said Safpu.
The SA Football Association (Safa) also added their voices in condoling Lebese’s family, his former teammates and the entire football family.
Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said he was shocked when he learnt of the passing away of the former Kaizer Chiefs, Ria Stars and Orlando Pirates darling at such a tender age.
“This is yet another sad day and chapter in our soccer. Thabang was a role model for millions of soccer followers and his untimely death has once again robbed us of yet another soccer legend,” said Safa president.
Despite having only a single cap for Bafana Bafana, Lebese featured in 279 top-flight matches during his 13-year glittering career of which 220 were in his favourite Chiefs colours.
“At 38, Thabang had a lot ahead of him in terms of passing his football experience to aspiring youngsters. He was a soccer icon who was looked up to by many youngsters aspiring to be tomorrow’s soccer stars. May his soul rest in peace,” added Nematandani.
Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane said he was equally heart-broken by the distressing news of Thabang’s untimely death.
“He was a gentleman on and off the pitch and was an amiable character hence his unrivalled popularity among the fans. South Africa has lost one of the greatest talents soccer has ever produced. I am devastated,” said Mosimane.
THABANG LEBESE FACT FILE
Full name: Thabang Johnny Lebese
Born:24/8/73 in Orlando, Soweto
Original clubs: Orlando Wanderers, Orlando Hotspurs (both amateur) Source: Kaizer Chiefs juniors.
Debut: Orlando Pirates 0 Kaizer Chiefs 0 (28/8/93).
First goal scored: Kaizer Chiefs 2 Orlando Pirates 3 (25/9/93).
International debut: Namibia 3 South Africa 2 (25/1/98,Cosafa Castle Cup).
Honours: 1 full international cap, 1 Under-23 cap; 2000/01 PSL champion; 2000 Bob Save Super Bowl winner; 1997, 1998 Rothmans Cup winner
Year Club Games Goals
93-00 Kaizer Chiefs 220 (+ 20 subs) 74
00/01 Ria Stars 28 (+ 1 sub) 8
Orlando Pirates 8 1
01/02 Orlando Pirates 13 (+ 17 subs) 3
02/03 Orlando Pirates 1 (+3 subs) 0
03/04 Silver Stars 3 (+ 6 subs) 0
Moroka Swallows 1 (+ 5 subs) 0
04/05 Black Leopards 5 (+ 5 subs) 0
05/06 Dynamos (1 sub only) 0
Totals 279 86
Correct as at 23/2/2012. League and cup matches only. Charity matches and friendlies not included.