A natural leader who was destined for greatness

By Michael Madyira

Loved and Lost: Papi Khomane (1973 – 2023)

Winning two Premier Soccer League titles with Orlando Pirates, and claiming an Africa Cup of Nations bronze medal, Papi Khomane enjoyed an illustrious football career.

It was a career further decorated by the BP Top 8 won at the turn of the millennium.

A quiet and reserved figure, Khomane left most of his talking to do on the pitch as a ferocious and no-nonsense central defender. he displayed great leadership skills captaining the Pirates, one of the biggest football institutions on the African continent.

Khomane tragically died in a car accident on Saturday morning, aged 48, while on his way to KwaZulu-Natal for a funeral. The incident also claimed the lives of his mother and his brother-in-law.

Growing up in a football-loving family in Soweto near the Nike Football Training Centre, then known as Simba Stadium, it was inevitable that Khomane would pick the beautiful game as his career.

For someone whose father also played for Pirates, growing up in this football-mad township, it was no surprise that he kicked off his professional career at Jomo Cosmos where he spent four years from 1994.

Jomo Sono is known for his eagle eye for talent and rarely makes mistakes in spotting and players and Khomane was in good hands at Ezenkosi.

But Khomane rose to prominence at Pirates where he shouldered the responsibility of captaining this big brand, a role not for the faint-hearted.

Not many players have lasted nine years at the Buccaneers but Khomane did it from 1998 until his retirement in 2007.

After hanging up his boots he retreated from public life, typical of his reserved character, to focus on his businesses.

Unlike most former footballers who go into coaching, punditry, administration or other roles that keep them in the limelight, the former Buccaneers skipper went quiet.

Some would suggest he lost his love of the game but no one really knows. What matters most is that he left many with fond memories of his time in black and white.

He remains a cherished and celebrated legend not only at Pirates but in South African football.

Rest easy in eternal sleep, skipper!

Pictured above: Papi Khomane.

Image source: Orlando Pirates


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