Famously known as ‘Mercedes Benz’ is still regarded as one of the best holding midfielders of his generation, Linda Buthelezi commanded the midfield with his hard tackling style and slick feet with a killer pass that destroyed opposition defences.
Born on the 28th of June 1969 in Johannesburg Buthelezi sharpened his horns at Jomo Cosmos between 1988 and 1990, which is where the midfielder made a name for himself playing at the heart of midfield.
After a good two years with ‘Ezenkosi’ he became one of the most wanted midfielders in the country with South Africa’s big clubs vying for his signature towards the 1990-91 season – It became difficult for Cosmos to resist offers for him.
In 1991 the inevitable happened and Buthelezi joined Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs.
The midfielder came at a time when Kaizer Chiefs was at their peak with players like Marks Maponyane, Doctor Khumalo, Neil Tovey and a lot more dominating the domestic front.
Chiefs bolstered a talented, hardworking and lethal squad in the early 90s hence it became no surprise to see them win two National Soccer League tittles, two Top 8 trophies and other trophies between 1990-1993 and ‘Mercedes Benz’ was at the heart of that glory period for ‘Amakhosi’.
During the early 90s South African football was going through a phase of self identity and self identity after being officially re-admitted back into FIFA after two decades due to the apartheid regime. Also at the time that generation of footballers wanted to lay a foundation for the next generation by making moves to European clubs and Buthelezi became one of those players by earning a move to Turkish side Karabukspor.
At Karabukspor, Buthelezi lasted only a single season which unfortunately ended when the club got relegated back to the second division later that season and the midfielder opted to go back home joining the other Soweto giant Orlando Pirates in 1994 helping them to win the league tittle in that season ahead of a well drilled talented Cape Town Spurs.
In 1995 ‘Mercedes Benz’ made history by becoming one of a few players in South African history to play for all the big three clubs when he joined Mamelodi Sundowns from rivals Orlando Pirates.
In the four years the midfielder played at Sundowns he helped the ‘Brazilians’ to a runners up spot in 1995 before ultimately helping them win the Premier Soccer League tittle in 1998.
‘Mercedes Benz’ made his national team debut in 1994 under coach Clive Barker and would later become a part of the 1996 AFCON winning squad on home soil – perhaps South Africa’s most prestigious football moment in her history.
One of his most memorable games was when South Africa played Germany in the Nelson Mandela Challenge in 1995 in preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations, Buthelezi was on cruise mode alongside Doctor Khumalo in the midfield destroying the German defence as the game ended 0-0 on the day.
Another moment which he made unwanted headlines was in 1997 when he tackled Paul Gascoigne and the English midfielder had to be stretchered off. Between 1994-97 Buthelezi featured 27 times for Bafana Bafana and was part of the golden generation of footballers whose triumphs have not been surpassed generations later today.
In club football Buthelezi joined SuperSport United in the 1998-99 season which is where the legend hanged his boots retiring from football having won almost all the silverware domestically.
A well deserved spot in FARPost‘s wall of true South African legends who were winners and trend setters.
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By Prince Sobayeni