Lucas Radebe is one of South Africa’s greatest ever footballers. He is a sporting icon in South Africa and has achieved a legendary status with his English team Leeds United F.C.
His involvement with soccer goes further than his time on the field, however. In 1998 he became an ambassador for SOS Children’s Villages. In December 2000 he received the FIFA Fair Play Award for his role in fighting racism in soccer, and also for his work with children.
Lucas is known for his talent, his courage, his warm personality, his willingness to work for others and his loyalty.
Lucas Radebe was born on 12 April 1969 in Diepkloof, Soweto. When he was 15 years old, his parents sent him away to Bophuthatswana to avoid the violence in the township. Soccer was one of his favourite pastimes, and his talent was soon spotted by Kaizer Chief scouts, who signed him up.
In 1991 he was shot in the back while doing shopping in Soweto. Fortunately, no vital organs were damaged and the incident would not prevent him from returning to soccer. It is not known who shot him, but Radebe thought that the shooters might have been hired to stop him from moving clubs. In 1992 he made his first appearance for the South African national team, Bafana Bafana. Two years later, in 1994, he moved to England, where he joined Leeds United. Despite several injuries and a troubled relationship with the team manager, Radebe would become a very popular player in his adopted country. Under the new manager George Graham his career began to flourish, and Leeds fans quickly named him “The Chief”. In 1998 he was appointed captain of the team. In the same year he returned to South Africa to lead the national soccer team in the World Cup tournament.
Under his leadership, Leeds came fourth in the Premiership in the 1998-99 season, and in the next year they came third. In 2000 he suffered a knee injury and later ankle injuries, which plagued him for close to two years. However, in 2002 he was ready to lead the South African team in the World Cup once again. Since then, he has become South Africa’s most capped soccer player. His main soccer position is centre-back, but he has also played as goalkeeper, sweeper, right-back, left-back and defensive midfield.
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