Thomas Madigage: A fine human being
Posted: 19 October 2012 Time: 9:43 am
It is a mark of the man that at the news of his passing, most people's reaction was one of grief, at the loss of such a high calibre person as Thomas Madigage.
Often when people involved in football pass on, the immediate response is to describe the loss of talent as a player or coach. Madigage was talented, hugely so, but he was also an absolute gentleman, a softly spoken individual who was respected, admired and much loved by all around him.
It is a great tribute to him and his family that people remember the man first and football coach second, a rarity in this day and age.
But there was plenty to admire in a career that might have produced more in the way of accolades had he not been continually hampered by injuries.
Having come through the Arcadia Shepherds club, Madigage made his debut for Jomo Cosmos in a 2-1 loss to Leeds United in March 1987. Aged just 16-and-a-half, he was at the time the youngest player ever to feature in a South African domestic match, a record that would later be taken by Mkhanyiseli Siwahla.
An attractive midfielder with a keen eye for goal, he played an important role in Cosmos lifting the NSL title that year. His first goal came in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Moroka Swallows, and he would go on to get two more that season.
He was a commanding presence in the Ezenkosi side for the next four years, his performances winning him a move to FC Zurich in Switzerland for the 1990/91 campaign.
It was a rarity in those days for black South African players to go to Europe; the rush would come later in the post-apartheid era.
He netted on debut for the Swiss side, but unfortunately also picked up a knee injury that ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign. One wonders what might have been had he not suffered such a cruel fate.
He returned to Jomo Cosmos for the 1992 season but continued to be plagued by injury niggles and never quite managed to get a run of games going.
He did make his Bafana Bafana debut in this time though, featuring in a 0-0 draw with Mauritius in a 1994 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
He would total just four appearances for his country, not nearly enough for a player of his quality. He had to wait another three years before featuring again, replacing Doctor Khumalo in South Africa's famous 3-2 loss at the hands of Brazil (April 1996), then playing further matches against Ghana (September 1996) and his last against Netherlands (June 1997).
He was recalled to the Bafana side in June 1999, but had to pull out of the squad through injury.
He joined Pretoria City from Cosmos for the 1994 season, the year they were relegated to the second tier. He stuck with the side though and helped them to promotion, as well as the Bob Save Super Bowl Final, where they lost 3-2 to Cape Town Spurs.
He would go on to spend 10 seasons as a player with Pretoria City, who morphed into SuperSport United at the start of the PSL era in the 1996/97 campaign.
During that time he won the Sparletta Cup in 1995 and, finally, the Bob Save Super Bowl in 1999.
Madigage took on a player-assistant coach role with SuperSport towards the end of his career, before finally hanging up his boots at the end of the 2002/03 season. By then he had amassed 310 career starts and scored a very healthy 51 goals.
He stayed on at the club as assistant coach to former teammate Pitso Mosimane and together the pair elevated Matsatsantsa to the status of perennial title challengers.
They claimed the SAA Supa8 in 2004 (they were losing finalists in 2005 and 2006 as well) and the Absa Cup in 2005. The side were also losing finalists in the Coca-Cola Cup in 2004 and 2005, narrowly beaten by Kaizer Chiefs and Jomo Cosmos, respectively.
When Mosimane left for the Bafana Bafana assistant coaching role in 2007, he was replaced by Gavin Hunt, who immediately saw the value in Madigage and was eager to continue working with him.
Together they began to dominate South African football, winning a trio of League titles between 2008 and 2010, as well as the Nedbank Cup in 2012, just two months before Madigage finally ended his love-affair with SuperSport to take up the role of Bafana assistant coach.
Although Hunt will rightly take plenty of plaudits for this period of Matsatsantsa success, the role that Madigage played was immense and should never be underestimated. Certainly it never was by Hunt himself.
Madigage would have turned 42 when Bafana play Zambia on November 14. It is sure to be an emotional night, and one where South African fans will get the opportunity to say their thanks to this fine servant to South African football, but more importantly a fine human being.