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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Radebe bids farewell
Leeds and South Africa's Lucas Radebe
South Africa's Lucas Radebe has spent 11 seasons with Leeds
Former South Africa captain Lucas Radebe was given a big farewell in his testimonial at English side Leeds United on Monday.

Radebe, who won 70 caps for South Africa, has been unable to play for the Championship club since last August when he was stretchered off against Wolves with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The match was played in front of more than 37,000 fans and saw a World XI coached by Bolton manager Sam Allardyce beat a Leeds XI 7-3.

Radebe himself get on the scoresheet twice for the World XI and all the proceeds from the match will be given to charities that help sick, disabled and disadvantaged children.

Money will also go to a campaign to halt the HIV/Aids pandemic in South Africa.

Radebe and his wife, Feziwe, plan to return to the Rainbow Nation eventually but for now, their children, Luke and Jessica, are settled in primary school in Yorkshire.

He is to take his coaching badges shortly, qualifications which could, in time, lead to his becoming coach of the country he represented at the finals of two World Cups.

"I know I'll get involved in football when I go home because that's what I know best," he told English newspaper The Independent.

"I want to give back something from all the experience I've gained and to keep the ball rolling in producing players who could come to Europe like me.

I know I'll get involved in football when I go home because that's what I know best
Lucas Radebe

"That would be great for football in South Africa."

In the slums where Radebe grew up during the era of apartheid, along with five sisters and six brothers, he learnt his trade playing barefoot with a ball made of rolled-up socks.

As a teenager he was part of a local vigilante group which "tried to do the right things but in the wrong way", sometimes with violence.

Once, when he was driving to buy drinks for his mother, a bullet ripped through the side of his car, making a hole in his back and then exiting via his left leg.

He says the shooting was both a "defining moment" and a "blessing in disguise."

His brush with death made him determined to make the most of his life and his talent.

Leeds signed Radebe from Kaizer Chiefs along with Philomen Masinga from Mamelodi Sundowns in 1994 by the then manager Howard Wilkinson.

South Africa's Phil Masinga
Phil Masinga joined Leeds with Radebe in 1994

He found it hard adapting to the "freezing cold" and did not like the local beer ("horrible") and roast beef ("ugh") and after 18 months, a homesick Radebe bought a ticket back to Johannesburg.

But the dread of facing his parents, who were so proud when he joined Leeds, persuaded him to stay and to keep trying.

Nine months later, new manager George Graham made him captain.

Radebe then became a linchpin when Graham was replaced by David O'Leary, citing the team that reached the Champions' League semi-finals in 2001 as definitely the best he played in.

But Leeds piled up enormous debts and as the best players were sold off last year they slid into relegation.

"We made such giant strides, challenging for the title and in Europe, and suddenly the club was falling apart," he says of the fall.

"It was a sad, difficult time. But Leeds will rise again. Things are improving financially. First we need stability, then success will follow."

But he has no regrets after a wonderful career which once saw Nelson Mandela on an official visit to Leeds telling the dignitaries: "This is my hero."

"I felt I could burst with pride," he says. "I was thinking: 'Me? A hero to him?' He's a true hero.

"South Africa would not be free and independent today but for his sacrifices and his leadership."




SEE ALSO
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Radebe suffers fresh injury blow
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Radebe's future in doubt
18 Feb 05 |  African
Radebe plans big send-off
06 Oct 04 |  Leeds United
Radebe set for coaching
28 May 04 |  African



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