On 28 January 1969, Philemon Raul Masinga who was famously known as ‘Chippa’ by many in South African football was born.
Masinga remains one of South Africa’s greatest strikers to have ever played and donned the national team jersey since SA’s re-admission to international football in 1992.
FARPost takes a journey into memory lane to zoom in on the career of ‘Chippa’ which started from South Africa to England, from England to Switzerland and from Switzerland to Italy.
Masinga started his youth career with Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs before signing his first professional contract with Jomo Cosmos in 1990 at the age of 21.
It’s at Cosmos where the big centre forward sharpened his horns and fine tuned his craft in front of goal as he announced himself as a good goalscorer. In the 1990/91 season Masinga scored 23 goals in 88 appearances for Cosmos with his performances attracting interest from some of SA’s big clubs towards the 1991/92 season.
Eventually, Masinga joined Mamelodi Sundowns in the next season where he played for three seasons for the Tshwane based club. At Sundowns, ‘Chippa’ developed to become one of the best strikers in the country at the time helping ‘Masandawana’ to the National Soccer League tittle in the 1992/93 season under coach Angelo Tsichlas which was the first title of many to follow for the Tshwane club.
Masinga scored an unbelievable 98 goals in just 108 appearances for ‘Bafana Ba Style’ in the three seasons he spent there proving how much of a goal machine he had become in this period of his career.
In 1992 Masinga was part of SA’s first squad after readmission as Bafana Bafana took on Cameroon in Kings Park, Durban. Later, Masinga played in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers where SA failed to qualify after finishing third in the group behind Zambia and Zimbabwe. He also participated in the 1994 USA World Cup qualifiers where Bafana finished second behind Nigeria and failed to qualify.
Back in club football Masinga had now played for three seasons at Sundowns and had become one of the country’s top goal poachers which is why then Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson decided to recruit the big centre forward to join Leeds in the English Premiership, alongside compatriot Lucas Radebe, for the 1994/95 campaign.
In a period of two years ‘Chippa’ played 31 games for Leeds United scoring 5 goals in the process before moving to Switzerland to join St Gallen in a move where he barely played managing only 10 appearances with no goal to his name before ending his stay with the club in 1997.
In the national team things were going great for Masinga under newly appointed national team coach Clive Barker who had a task of dismantling and rebuilding the national team brand towards the 1996 Afcon which was subsequently held in a new Democratic South Africa following successful first ever democratic elections in April 1994.
The national team had a duty to become the beacon of hope for a nation on a path of peace, unity and reconciliation after years of apartheid, the team was very instrumental in uniting the ‘rainbow nation’ through sport.
Barker started slow with a number of rather embarrassing defeats but in 1995 big results against some of Africa’s top teams and the best teams in Europe including Germany brought a lot of hope to many who followed the team.
By the end of 1995 SA had a well-oiled team which included the likes of Neil Tovey, Mark Fish , John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu, Doctor ’16V’ Khumalo, Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe, Mark Williams, Eric Tinkler, Helman ‘Midnight Express’ Mkhalele and of course Masinga, amongst a host of a talented group of SA footballers at the time.
Masinga helped Bafana Bafana win the 1996 Afcon as hosts in what still remains the greatest triumph in the history of Bafana Bafana and considering the conditions in which the conquest over Africa was achieved this event is one of the greatest in history.
Fast forward to 1997 where SA needed a win against Congo Brazzaville in a home qualifier at the FNB stadium. Khumalo intercepted a Congolese build up before teeing up Masinga who was way outside the 18-yard-box with many screaming “Don’t shoot Chippa, pass”, but the striker followed his instinct and hit the ball with his venomous right foot and scored one of the greatest ever football goals scored by a player in a Bafana jersey, a goal that took South Africa to its first ever FIFA World Cup in 1998 held in France.
The next year Masinga was part of the 1998 Afcon team which finished as runners up to Egypt in the tournament and later he was part of the 1998 World Cup squad that went to France. Masinga featured against France in the opening game which is a feeling he cherished for the rest of his life.
‘Chippa’ did not score at that World Cup but he would have been happy to participate in a tournament of that magnitude after scoring that magnificent goal that took his nation there in the first place.
‘Chippa’, meanwhile had to revive his club career and look for game time after that disastrous season at St Gallen, luckily his performances for the national team helped him as scouts from all over the world were watching.
Eventually in 1997 he earned himself a move to the Italian Serie A joining Salernitana in 1997 where he played 16 games scoring 4 times in another period that he didn’t stay long at a club
After Salernitana was relegated Masinga joined Bari FC where he stayed three seasons scoring 24 goals in his 75 appearances with the Italian top flight side between 1997 and 2001.
His performances in Serie A had earned him interest from England once again and this time Coventry United had a strong interest of signing him from Bari but unfortunately work permit restrictions meant the move failed which is when Abu Dhabi side Al Wahda signed him and that’s where he would hang up his boots.
Masinga played 58 international matches for his home country South Africa scoring 18 goals. He retired with a club career goal tally of 154 goals in 328 appearances throughout his successful career.
Masinga had started a journey into football management as a coach notably coaching PJ Stars in 2005.
The 13th of January 2019 will forever be a dark day for many South African football fans as it is the day that cancer took the life of Masinga – a man who helped the nation win its first and only Afcon title, a man who took us to our first ever FIFA World Cup.
From the streets of Klerksdorp to walking amongst giants like Gabriel Batistuta, Zinedine Zidane, Denis Berkamp, Michael Owen, Diego Simeon, Jay Jay Okocha, Shoes Moshoeu and many other football greats of his time, Rest in Peace ‘Chippa’
South Africa will never forget you.
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By Prince Sobayeni