Former Chiefs, Bucs star Lebese dies

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JOHANNESBURG Former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates midfielder Thabang Lebese has passed away.

Chillies, as he was affectionately known in his heyday, was in and out of hospital recently suffering from an undisclosed illness and according to reports, he could barely walk or talk when he was admitted to the Helen Joseph Hospital a couple of months ago.

Lebese, who was 38 at the time of his death, will be best remembered for his days at Chiefs. He made 220 appearances for Amakhosi, also coming off the bench a further 20 times, between 1993 and 2000, when he left to join Ria Stars.

Lebese moved to Orlando Pirates in 2001 after a brief spell with the now defunct Limpopo squad, with whom he resurrected his flagging career.

In total, he played 279 top-flight matches over 13 years, but despite his obvious talent he only made one Bafana Bafana appearance in a 3-2 loss to Namibia in an international friendly in 1998.

Lebese admitted in his last interview with Kick Off a couple of years ago that leaving Chiefs was a wrong decision.

Leaving them was a big mistake. . . I made the wrong decision. I was not supposed to leave Chiefs. I grew up there and I was Thabang Lebese because of Kaizer Chiefs.

But I was angry because I wanted to play and I was not getting enough game-time and there was some friction between me and the coach, Muhsin Ertugral.
Well, I thought I knew too much! I was thinking, because Im Thabang Lebese, playing for a big team, I could do anything, but I was wrong, Lebese said.

The SA Football Players Union (Safpu) expressed their sadness at the passing away of Lebese.

He was a legend of the game and he contributed well enough to put our standard of football where it is today. He is one of those players who made our league what it is today and only to die in absolute poverty. Another legend has fallen and our country and all the football loving people will miss him. Rest in peace Chillies. We will keep the spear burning, said Safpu. Supersport

Chillies, as he was affectionately known in his heyday, was in and out of hospital recently suffering from an undisclosed illness and according to reports, he could barely walk or talk when he was admitted to the Helen Joseph Hospital a couple of months ago.