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Lucas Radebe (1969 - )

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Lucas Radebe (1969 - ) Awarded for:
Excellent achievement in the field of sport.

Profile of Lucas Radebe

Lucas Radebe was born on 12 April 1969 in Diepkloof, Soweto, and lived there to the age of 15, when his parents sent him to what was known as “Bophutatswana’ because of the ongoing violence in their home area. He had always been a soccer fan and now began to play seriously for the ICL Birds in the Bophutatswana Soccer League, first as a goalkeeper and later in the midfield.

In 1989 he came to the notice of talent scouts for the Kaizer Chiefs club, and was promptly signed-up. An intelligent and acrobatic footballer, Radebe soon became one of the club's star players, and in 1992 reached the pinnacle of his sporting career by being selected for the national South African soccer team, Bafana Bafana , in spite of having been shot in the back by an unknown assailant less than a year earlier.

In 1994 Radebe joined Leeds United in England, and, after a troubled start, went on to become a favourite with the Leeds fans, who nicknamed him “the Chief’. In 1998 – after playing in the South African team which had won the African Nations Cup in 1996 - he was made captain of the Leeds team. After returning to South Africa to lead Bafana Bafana in that year's World Cup tournament, Radebe concentrated on putting Leeds on the road to victory. The team came fourth in the 1998-1999 English Premiership and third the following year, gaining qualification for the coveted European Cup, now known as the Champions League.

In 2000 Radebe suffered knee and ankle injuries from which he took almost two years to recover, but by 2002 he was fit again, and after four matches in the Leeds reserve team was selected once more as Bafana Bafana’s World Cup captain.

Radebe, now South Africa’s most-capped soccer player, is at home in a variety of positions: centre-back – his main position – right-back, left-back, defensive midfield, goalkeeper and sweeper.

Radebe's success on the soccer pitch tends to overshadow another aspect of his life – his work for a number of educational, social and charitable initiatives, including the Starfish charity for HIV and Aids orphans and the “Reach for a Dream’ Foundation; for which the University of Cape Town conferred an honorary Master of Social Sciences degree on him in 2005. He has also served as the FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children's Villages and in 2000 received FIFA's Fair Play Award for his efforts to rid soccer of racism.

In a career spanning over 20 years, Lucas Radebe has risen to the heights of his chosen occupation, enhanced the image of his home continent's footballers, fought against racism in soccer, inspired hundreds of thousands of young fellow countrymen and ploughed back the fruits of his endeavours into helping ill and deprived children, not only in South Africa but elsewhere in the world. He has brought honour to himself, his family and to his country.