Panafrican News Agency

South Africa: South African football legend dead at 82

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) –The South African Football Association (SAFA) on Saturday saluted Steve Mokone, who died on Friday after a long illness.

The 82-year-old Mokone, who was based in the United States at the time of his death, became the first black South African to make it overseas when he was signed by Coventry City in 1955.

He then moved to Dutch side Heracle and then Torino in Italy. Mokone rounded off his career with a stint in Australia and Canada in 1964.

He enrolled at Rutgers University in the USA, emerging seven years later with a doctorate in psychology.

Mokone's life, and especially his time in Holland, led to an Amsterdam street being named after him - the first black professional in Holland that has a street named after him in that country. He followed that up with and provided the inspiration for the book and subsequent film De Zwarte Meteoor (The Black Meteor).

“Today we and most players enjoy the fruits of his toil, because had he failed there he would have perhaps denied current South African footballers a chance to be recognised overseas," said SAFA President Danny Jordaan in a statement released to PANA. "He was a great South African ambassador on the football front and we would like to thank him for his contribution in shaping the game in our country.”

Mokone was born in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, but his family ended up settling in Pretoria.

In 2003, former President Thabo Mbeki conferred him with the Order of Ikamanga - South Africa's highest honour for achievement in the creative and performing arts and sport.

Bebbe Branco, an Italian football writer, described Mokone as a legend when he was at the peak of his career.

"If Pele of Brazil is the Rolls-Royce of soccer players, Stanley Matthews of England the Mercedes Benz and Alfredo di Stefano of Argentina the Cadillac of soccer players, then Kala of South Africa, lithe and lean, is surely the Maserati," said Branco.
-0- PANA CU/AR 21Mar2015