A HUMBLE visionary and selfless football legend.
They all described Thomas Madigage as the gentleman of soccer.
Those who knew the late Bafana Bafana assistant coach said he had always put the interest of others first. Some even likened him to Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and late ANC president OR Tambo.
But yesterday, soccer boss Jomo Sono – the man who raised and mentored Madigage – revealed a naughty little secret about the fallen hero.
“One thing he never wanted to do in the house was to wash the dishes,” said Sono.
The Jomo Cosmos FC boss described Madigage as having been like his son while he stayed with him in Soweto.
Madigage, nicknamed “Chincha Guluva”, played for Cosmos in the late 1980s.
A teenager at the time, he completed his matric at Phefeni Secondary School while playing professional football.
“Always, when it was his turn to wash the dishes, he cited an injured ankle,” Sono told mourners at Madigage’s funeral in Driekop village near Burgersfort in Limpopo.
“He was a friend, a son and everything to me.”
Sono urged the mourners, who had assembled inside three marquees, to celebrate Madigage’s life.
Among those at the funeral were Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund, SA Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani, Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale, Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula and Tshwane executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
Expelled youth leader Julius Malema occupied a back seat on stage. He was not given an opportunity to speak.
Also there to pay their respects were sacked Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane, Kaizer Chiefs assistant coach Doctor Khumalo and former and current PSL players.
Madigage’s 83-year-old mother, in a message read out by the footballer’s brother Edwin, expressed the anguish of a distraught parent.
“This is the saddest day of my life. It’s hard to accept, but I am putting all in God’s hands,” it read in part.
Edwin said Madigage had died a few hours after he had visited his sick mother.
His car overturned while he was trying to avoid a donkey on the R37 road between Burgersfort and Polokwane.
Mathale said Madigage was a true sportsman worth emulating.
“Madigage put his country first and never threatened to dump the national team even when his undivided services were required by his club,” the premier noted.
Madigage had a short stint at Glasgow Rangers in Scotland and Manchester City, before he settled at FC Zurich in Switzerland in the 1990s. His career abroad was shortened by injuries.
He became assistant coach of SuperSport United before becoming assistant national coach.
He played four times for the national team, and Bafana played four games while he was assistant coach.
Madigage had planned to establish a soccer academy in Limpopo, an idea that was endorsed by Italian outfit Inter Milan.
He leaves behind his children Melanie, Joseph, Papi, Samuel and Katlego, aged between 12 and 19.
The funeral lasted for about six hours.
At the end, his wheelchair-bound mother was wheeled close to the grave. She stared at it for several minutes, said nothing and left.