Cape Town - SA Rugby president Mark Alexander paid tribute to the first president of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) Ebrahim Patel, who died at the age of 78.
Patel, who was one of the driving forces behind the movement to rugby unity, died early on Monday morning after suffering a stroke.
Alexander, who visited Patel at his home on Sunday with a delegation of former players and administrators, said Patel was a “pioneer of non-racial rugby”.
The white South African Rugby Board (SARB), the non-racial South African Rugby Union (SARU), the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF) and the South African Rugby Association (SARA) came together in 1992 to form SARFU, under the joint presidency of Patel (SARU) and Danie Craven (SARB).
“His contribution to the game here in South Africa is on par with some of the greatest administrators we’ve ever had, and it was a remarkable achievement to bring all rugby communities together after so many years of division,” said Alexander.
“He served the game at so many levels – as secretary, spokesman and later president – and it was only fitting that he and the late doctor Danie Craven shared the position as first executive president of SARFU back in 1992.
“Mr Patel met with representatives of the erstwhile SA Rugby Board and exiled leaders of the ANC, who were then still a banned organisation, in London, Lusaka and Harare. He worked incredibly hard to bring about unity and will forever be remembered as one of the kingpins of the game in South Africa, but also globally, as he also served on the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby).
“Mr Patel was also an excellent orator, able to deliver brilliant speeches in both fluent English and Afrikaans, quoting from the Qur’an and the Bible. We must never forget what he did for rugby in South Africa and he deserves to be honoured by generations to come.
🇿![CDATA]>🇦 Mr Ebrahim Patel, the first president of SARFU and one of the driving forces behind rugby unity, passed away on Monday— Springboks (@Springboks) February 21, 2022
🗣️ “He was a pioneer of non-racial rugby” - Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby
🔗 More here: https://t.co/KBBkwWedQF pic.twitter.com/9xEtCbLxj6
“He was also instrumental in bringing me into the world of sport administration and I’ll be forever grateful. I was still a player at Transvaal when our deputy president passed away, and Mr Patel put me in that role, as he believed in the importance of succession planning and building for the future.
“As a result, I worked with him for 10 years at the erstwhile Transvaal Independent Rugby Football Union and I owe my involvement in rugby administration to him.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife Diana, his children Fatima, Nazley, Ashraf and Fuad, his grand-children and other family, friends and loved ones in this time of bereavement, and we pray that Almighty Allah grant him Jannat Firdaus.”
Patel, born on August 15, 1943, will be buried at the Newclare Cemetery in Johannesburg today according to Muslim faith.