Goodbye Ntini - and thanks for the memories
Johannesburg - Former cricketer Makhaya Ntini is a force for unity in South Africa, said Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosiuoa Lekota on Sunday.
Lekota's tribute to the fast bowler comes after Ntini played his final international game in South African colours at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Sunday.
Ntini bid an emotional farewell to over 50 000 spectators.
“Not only was Makhaya a champion athlete, he was a symbol of progress towards racial cohesion in the new South Africa,” Lekota said in a statement.
“We have come a long way from the days when a prodigiously talented individual like Basil D'Oliveira was deprived of the right to represent his country based purely on the colour of his skin.”
Lekota said athletes like Ntini and D'Oliveira became more than just sportsmen and “carried the burden of politics with grace and professionalism”.
“From his humble beginnings in Mdingi in the Eastern Cape, Makhaya became one of the most feared bowlers in world of cricket.”
Ntini rose to prominence after becoming the first black South African to play for the Proteas.
In an international career that spanned 12 years, the 101 Test veteran has 390 Test wickets and 266 ODI scalps.
“It is a deserved tribute to Makhaya that over 50 000 people attended the match, a record attendance for a cricket match in Africa,” Lekota said.
“Makhaya was a force for unity in this country and South Africans of all races are once again united in thanking him for his loyal service and hard work.”
Lekota said the sum total of Makhaya's sporting career “cannot be measured in runs, wickets and catches alone”.
“Makhaya was a pioneer and an inspiration for emerging players from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Lekota said.
“His achievement is an object lesson in the virtues of perseverance and hard work.
We would like to thank him for his services in helping to build a united country, and we wish him well as he continues to give back to the community by sharing his experience and expertise with emerging talent at his academy,” he said. - Sapa