Lucas Radebe has paid tribute to the man “everybody loved” after former Leeds and South Africa striker Phil Masinga died at the age of 49.
Leeds announced the death of Masinga on Sunday morning with “great sadness”.
Radebe and Masinga joined Leeds together in 1994, the latter from Mamelodi Sundowns and the former from Kaizer Chiefs.
Radebe went on to captain Leeds and become one of the club’s all-time greats, but only arrived at Elland Road to make Masinga’s move to West Yorkshire easier.
“For us as Africans it was a great experience,” Radebe told the BBC World Service.
“We weren’t used to the weather and we struggled a little bit – we kept each other warm at times.
“Phil was a big hit with the team and the players. I looked up to him and I think he inspired me the most. It was absolutely great the way he adapted to the situation.
“He was easy to get along with and he was most respected at the club as a person.”
No cause of death has been given, though Radebe said Masinga had lost a battle with cancer.
Masinga scored five times in 31 league appearances for Leeds. He left for Swiss team St Gallen in 1996 and went on to play for Salernitana
and Bari in Italy.
Away from West Yorkshire, Masinga scored the decisive goal against Congo which sealed South Africa’s qualification for the 1998 World Cup, the first time they had qualified for the tournament.
“Everybody loved him,” Radebe added. “He scored the winning goal to get us to the World Cup. The fans took him as a hero and he never looked back.”
He won 58 caps for South Africa, helping them win the African Nations Cup on home soil in 1996.
South African Football Association president Dr Danny Jordaan, who said Masinga was “in good spirits” when he saw him a week ago, described the former player as a “giant” and a “hero”.
He said on the SAFA website: “We have lost a giant of South African Football, this is a sad day for our football.
“I am really gutted. I saw him last Sunday before I flew to Dakar and, although he was not feeling well, he was in good spirits and I promised to visit him again sometime this week and now our hero is gone.
“Phil was a loyal servant of the game, on and off the field of play. His goal against Congo which took us to our first World Cup in France in 1998 is still the most celebrated goal in the country to date.
Masinga’s former Leeds team-mates also paid emotional tributes to the striker.
Tony Dorigo said on Twitter: “Very sad news, RIP my friend. I’ll never forget Phil and the chief arriving at #ER full of smiles and hope…..and thermals!! Thoughts with his friends and family.”
Noel Whelan tweeted: “Really sad news to learn that a guy I spent so much time with, laughs and games together has passed away, he was not just a friend and strike partner but one of the nicest kindest guys I’ve met, was a pleasure and privilege to have know and played with you Phil.”
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright wrote: “Rest in Peace Phil. We’ll never forget your goal that took South Africa to their first World Cup in 1998. A legend of South African football and loved by @LUFC and Sundowns fans around the world. #RIPPhilMasinga.”
And Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani tweeted: “We love to remember you with a big smile and a white jersey on! R.I.P. Phil.”