Goodbye Senzo Meyiwa
Written by: Mbali Mokoko
At 27 years old, Senzo Meyiwa was a man at his prime. The Orlando Pirates goalkeeper was at the top of his domestic game and had just taken the number 1 jersey in the national team and was promoted to captain by coach Shakes Mashaba.
In the last few weeks, I spent a lot of time with our senior men’s national soccer team and that’s where I got to know Senzo better. He played a pivotal role in helping Bafana Bafana to collect their 8 points from 4 of 6 matches, on the road to qualifying for The Africa Cup of Nations in Morroco in 2015. For instance, Senzo stopped Congo Brazzaville in front of a hostile crowd in Point Noire to help Bafana bag 3 points. But despite his larger than life performances on the field, Senzo remained grounded. Whenever I interviewed him, he would give short one-word answers. He was humble and soft-spoken, even when you bumped into him on the streets, he would always greet you with a smile that came from his soul. He would say “sharp kunjani Mfethu.”
Senzo was very competitive, even when at training. Whenever the team practiced penalties, he would not only practice saving penalties, but also practice taking them as well. When he scored he would run to the centre of the field celebrating. It’s this passion that lead Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba to select him as captain for the national team. His rise from second choice goalkeeper to national team captain in a matter of just six caps was meteoric. He had grown in confidence from the young man that played second fiddle to his best friend Itumeleng Khune to the leader that had guided Bafana to the verge of qualifying for the Africa Nations Cup for the first time in six years.
During the last Bafana camp in Polokwane, the team was joined for breakfast by the Premier of Limpopo Stan Mathabatha. Senzo’s transformation into a leader was plain for all to see. He stood with confidence and told all the dignitaries that Bafana are playing for the nation and they know what needs to be done and how important is it for SA to qualify for AFCON 2015. He repeated the very same words later in the evening when the minister of sports Fikile Mbalula joined them. Is this really Senzo? I thought to myself. He spoke boldly and with confidence. That’s when I realised he was the leader of the troops. When he was appointed team captain ahead of the Sudan clash a month prior, I remember a few of us journalists giving Bra Shakes some quizzical looks. But he repaid Shakes’ faith by leading by example. Senzo was yet to concede a goal in the national team colours during the AFCON 2015 qualifiers. Senzo had gone an incredible 540 minutes without letting the ball into at the back of the net. I was hoping he was going to break Andre Arendse’s record who went 693 minutes without conceding a goal. And with Bafana’s next match against Sudan at home in Mbombela, I didn’t see the Sudanese scoring against him.
I still can’t believe that I will never ever meet Senzo at the Bafana camp again. I’m fortunate to have known him personally. He was such a real guy. Even when I travelled with Orlando Pirates to last year’s CAF Champions League final in Egypt, Senzo remain his humble self. He would offer me lunch at the team hotel. For the Orlando Pirates faithful, he will forever be remembered as the guy who stopped TP Mazembe from progressing into the next round. Hamba khahle qawe lesizwe. We trust you to be the heavens number one goalie once you get there. In Senzo We trust!