REMEMBERED: (From the right) Musina mayor Carol Phiri and Lesley Manyathelas mother, Gladys Manyathela, lay a wreath at the soccer players grave, while Orlando Pirates supporters Thanyani Phophi and Reuben Mudziwa watch.

Siphiwe Nyathi

The mother of late soccer star Lesley “Slow Poison” Manyathela celebrated her son’s 30th birthday at his graveside over the weekend.

Gladys Manyathela celebrated with family members and Musina mayor Carol Phiri on Saturday.

“The family will always cherish Lesley’s memory. We remember him each day that passes and we are happy to celebrate his birthday and lay a wreath on his grave,” she said.

She was also happy that the mayor attended the wreath-laying ceremony and birthday.

Phiri said South Africa was grateful for the life of the young soccer player, who was killed in a car accident outside Musina on August 9, 2003 at the age of 21. She said Manyathela’s death had robbed South Africans of a role model.

“Indeed, Lesley’s departure from this world has left a void too difficult to fill. It has robbed South Africa of yet another patriot to look up to for courage and inspiration,” said Phiri.

She said Manyathela distinguished himself as a football star and role model from an early age. “The contributions he made while still playing for Chelamoya and Dynamos football clubs in Limpopo could not go unnoticed. The goals he scored and subsequent victories brought about for our national team, Bafana Bafana, will remain forever etched in our living memories,” she said.

Manyathela was born on September 4, 1981. His tombstone was unveiled on Heritage Day, September 24, 2003.

Before his death, Manyathela was a top goalscorer in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), scoring 22 goals in 2003.

He also helped his team, Orlando Pirates, win league championship honours in the 2002/2003 season.

In the 2003/2004 soccer season the top goalscorer award for the PSL was renamed the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot Award.

The Musina Local Municipality has also named the local soccer stadium after him. – African Eye News Service