Reports of the death of former Kaizer Chiefs player Lucky Maselesele will come as a blow to many fans of the AmaKhosi for who the winger was a hero and embodied the type of dazzling football they wanted to see.
Maselesele, who passed away on Friday at the age of 41, actually only ever made 14 starts for Chiefs in six seasons at the club – which included spells away at Seven Stars and Manning Rangers on loan – but is revered for his razzmatazz style and was a fan favourite.
He never quite managed to fulfill his potential and loved a good party, which did not endear him to a number of coaches and in the end caused his downfall after a ban for the use of recreational drugs.
A product of the SAFA School of Excellence, he made his debut for Chiefs as a substitute against QwaQwa Stars in the 1997/98 season, just a month after his 18th birthday. He had caught the eye as the youngest player in South Africa’s team at the 1997 FIFA Under-20 World Cup along with the likes of Benni McCarthy, Steve Lekoelea, Stanton Fredericks and Matthew Booth.
He spent the second half of the 1998/99 campaign on loan in Cape Town at Seven Stars, where he was used mostly off the bench, but managed goals in wins over Jomo Cosmos and Umtata Bush Bucks as the team finished in fifth position. It was enough to suggest there was a skillful, promising teenager for Chiefs to continue to nurture.
But back at Naturena he continued to struggle for game-time and made only four starts in the 1999/00 season, which continued into the next campaign and led to a move to Rangers. It was there that he had arguably the best spell in his career during the 2000/01 season, scoring five goals in 18 starts and finally getting a run of matches in which to prove himself.
He was given a go at the start of the 2001/02 campaign back at Chiefs under coach Muhsin Ertugral, helping the team to the BP Top 8 title, but had little other influence in their ‘Vat Alles’ success.
He continued to battle through 2002/03 and at the end of the campaign finally left Naturena for Zulu Royals (who had briefly rebranded from AmaZulu). The club battled and were relegated after just five wins in their 30 games, but Maselesele at least played and did enough to earn a move to Black Leopards following the Durban club’s drop to the second-tier.
He spent two seasons at Lidoda Duvha, but started only 12 games in that time, and was shipped off to National First Division side City Pillars, before a brief stint in Northern Cyprus at Yenicami Agdelen.
Now 27, he returned to South Africa and surfaced at Thanda Royal Zulu, but made just seven substitute appearances before joining FC AK in the second tier and then Maritzburg United the following campaign for what would be his last in South African top-flight football.
He tested positive for cocaine use and received a ban that effectively brought a highly-promising career to an abrupt end, though he would later play in Namibia for Civics, officially retiring in 2011.
For a player who only made 71 starts in South Africa’s top-flight in his entire career, he was held in deep affection by many, despite a perhaps wayward attitude towards professionalism that certainly did not help his cause.
The Alexandra-born winger only made one appearance for Bafana Bafana, and at the time it was considered a surprise call-up due to his lack of game-time at Chiefs. It was for a 1-1 friendly draw against Senegal in 2002, where he got four minutes at the end of the game as a substitute for Delron Buckley.