Lucas Radebe left Kaizer Chiefs to sign for Leeds United Football Club in 1994 we talk to him on HEART 104.9FM On Sat at 8.30am -tune in

Lucas Radebe is indeed a South African of note. He has a remarkable record of sporting achievement as a soccer player in Africa and Europe. In addition he has made and continues to make a major contribution as a leader beyond the soccer field, with major involvement in anti-racism projects, community work and literacy projects.

 

Mr. Radebe grew up in Diepkloof, Soweto, in a rather modest house with his 10 brothers and sisters and mom and dad., during a very difficult time in the history of South Africa. Hi talent for soccer was evident from an early age and to this talent he added commitment that allowed him to scale the sporting heights that he has. A favourite son of Kaizer Chiefs, Leeds United and the South African National Team, he earned international; respect as a great defender and fine athlete. He captained Leeds United in England where he earned huge respect from the football fraternity, led South Africa to the 1998 soccer world cup and by the 2002 World cup (where he once again captained his country) he had earned 69 caps as a member of the South African National Team. Mr. Radebe through his success, has in fact opened up more opportunities for other players from Africa.   

                                                            – University of Cape Town graduation, June 2005

                                               

Regarded almost unanimously as the jewel in the Elland Road crown, Leeds United’s former skipper Lucas Radebe was arguably the best defender to have pulled on a Leeds shirt since the Revie era.

No wonder then, that former boss David O’Leary’s wish list to the board when he succeeded George Graham as manager in October 1998, included as a priority the desire to secure the South African at Elland for the rest of his career. With that in mind, the Irishman was delighted when Lucas agreed a new four year deal in December of the same year.

Radebe’s reading of the game and subsequent frequent last ditch saving tackles, along with his ability to smother opposition danger men as a top class man to man marker distinguish him from run of the mill Premiership defenders.

George Graham, a man not given to gushing praise unless it was thoroughly deserved, said of Lucas when appointing him captain for the 1998/99 season:
“It shows the confidence I have in him and how much I rate him.”

It was also noticeable that of all the players George Graham inherited from Howard Wilkinson the first one given a new long term contract was Lucas, which led to jokes in the dressing room that Lucas was in fact George’s long lost son!!!

Only lengthy injury problems denied him the chance to make his mark in his first two years in England, however thereafter he gave a number of years of impressive performances and finally gained recognition of being as a good a defender as there is in the Premier League.

Having participated in Bafana Bafana’s victory in the African Nations Cup Finals in 1996, Lucas then had the honour to lead his nation into their first ever World Cup finals in 1998.

Despite noises from Italy and leading Premiership clubs Manchester United and Liverpool in the summer of 2000, Radebe pledged to see out his career at Elland Road.

 

David O’Leary said: “Lucas should be set in stone and never allowed to leave!”

The following season was a stop start affair as Radebe struggled with a series of injuries, but the South African was a vital member of the Leeds squad and had a burning desire to lift a trophy in Leeds colours before hanging up his boots.

The 2001/02 season was another nightmare for the likeable South African who failed to make a single appearance, but amazingly it ended with him leading his country in the 2002 World Cup after he proved his fitness at the end of the campaign.

Now the holder of a record number of caps for his nation, he scored in Bafana Bafana’s defeat by Spain and has recently retired from both International and club football to pursue a number of post career options including football development and social responsibility projects.


 

Off the field …

 

Lucas Radebe left the South African football team, Kaizer Chiefs to sign for Leeds United Football Club in 1994 and has never looked back. He is known as the jewel in the crown at Elland Road, and ‘Chief’ amongst his team-mates.  As well as being a distinguished and skilful defender for the Premier League Club, he is South Africa’s most recognised sportsman having had the privilege of leading the South African national team for a number of years including in two World Cup finals (1998 & 2002).

Since joining Leeds United from Kaiser Chiefs in September 1994, Lucas has been the focal point of award winning education and anti-racism schemes that have tackled social inclusion problems in inner city Leeds as well as in his native South Africa.

In South Africa he is a national Hero and many children and families support Leeds United because of his amazing success. Lucas was Captain for Leeds United from 1998 to 2002, a rare honour for a South African footballer to captain a then leading Premiership team. Nelson Mandela visited Leeds a couple of years ago and Lucas attended a welcome lunch. Mr Mandela when speaking of how pleased he was to be in Leeds enthused “It is nice to see my hero again, Lucas Radebe”. Not bad for a lad who grew up in apartheid rule in his hometown of Soweto and originally set his sights on becoming a doctor.

It is this tough background plus a tremendous amount of courage and commitment that has propelled him to become one of the most inspirational and likeable characters you could ever meet.  Lucas’s trademark wherever he goes is his smile, it is truly infectious and children in particular warm to him instantly.  As well as his love of football his greatest love is children.  Lucas recognizes how lucky he is living the life of a professional footballer but not once has he ever taken it for granted.  He gives up his time and support tirelessly for the charity that he wholeheartedly supports, SOS Children’s Villages in South Africa and regularly goes back to visit whenever his schedule permits.

Lucas is also an ardent supporter of the Leeds United Community Programme based at Elland Road and regularly visits projects the club is working on.  In particular he is fantastic in using his own experiences in working with children on the fight against racism within football and society.  Lucas has a knack of getting key important messages across to children and adults and helping to make the world a safer and nicer place for people of all race and cultures to live in.

Lucas being a keen reader himself, has been heavily involved in the Leeds United Book Challenge, launched four years ago, that aimed to use the power of football to encourage children and adults who may not normally be interested in reading to become members of their local library. The campaign was a massive success, winning the Big Issue Difference Award for a medium sized business, and inspired 12,000 people of all ages to read an extra 500,000 books during the project.

 

Last season he continued his support for improving literacy standards by launching the 442 reading clubs, a project run across libraries in Leeds to encourage families to attend a 442 reading club at their local library.  He has since visited one of the clubs set up as a result of that launch at Chapeltown library in Leeds.

Radebe has also played a major role in the Leeds United Against Racism Schools Project that has encouraged children to develop strategies to tackle racism within the classroom, the school and the local community.

Working as South Africa’s ambassador for the FIFA SOS Children’s Villages Campaign, Lucas has dedicated much of his time to hosting development coaching clinics and social responsibility programmes in deprived villages AROUND South Africa. Amongst his numerous appearances for charity, he also has been involved in Starfish, a charity that attempts to tackle the problems of Aids in Southern Africa, as well as The Laureus Sports for Good Foundation where he was recently instilled as a trustee of the Laureus Trust, an organization that uses sport as a rehabilitating mechanism in various community projects around South Africa and the rest of the world.

Again his friendly and positive nature shines through in these visits making the participants feel proud of themselves and that they are making a positive step for their family’s future.

The proudest moment for Lucas, his family and for those who know him was when the Premier League unveiled him as the winner of the 10 Seasons Awards for Contribution to the Community.  The award which is part of the Premier League’s 10 seasons celebrations which look back on the past decade of top-flight English football, recognises the player who has done most to use his position as a professional footballer to make a difference to people’s lives.

 

Dave Richards, the Chairman of the Premier League, who sat on the panel to decide the winner of the 10 seasons of the Premiership award said: “There are many people involved in football who do a tremendous amount for their local community who don’t get the credit they deserve, all those short listed for the award are worthy of praise.

“Lucas Radebe has done ample to deserve this accolade and is an example for us all to follow as someone who has not just worked hard for the people of Leeds, but has also found the time and energy to help the communities of his homeland.

Lucas Radebe said: “I am delighted to be the recipient of this award. It is a great honor for me and my family. I could never have guessed when I arrived in England from South Africa to play for Leeds United back in August 1994 that I would enjoy such a wonderful career at such a great football club. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside the Leeds United community department.

“Professional football is under the microscope for many reasons but few people notice the good work that is being done in education and grass roots football by the kind of community-related activities we have at Leeds United and other clubs. I have been fortunate to be involved with our anti-racism, educational, social and charitable initiatives and this award not only reflects my efforts but those of the many people connected with Leeds United.

“For me Football equals Community. I have seen the way our sport has acted as a vehicle for change. Having achieved a level and status as a professional player in the Premier League and in South Africa, means I have been lucky enough to have been in a position to make a difference”

 

 

Sport figures from around the world have paid tribute to Lucas Radebe’s achievement.

Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, said: “The following ideals accurately define the values that are to be found in an exemplary football player – Sporting excellence, an outstanding spirit of fair play, dedication and sacrifice in the struggle against all kinds of discrimination, a role model for young people.

“These are only some of the qualities embodied by Lucas Radebe, worthy winner of the FIFA Fair Play Award in 2000 and a shining example of fair play both on and off the field.

“Lucas Radebe, distinguished ambassador for fair play: please accept my sincere congratulations on the 10 Seasons Award for Contribution to the Community and my thanks for your tireless commitment and your invaluable contribution to football.”

Gerhard Aigner, Chief Executive of UEFA, said: “I am delighted to see that the Premier League is not only celebrating its first decade on the pitch, but is also recognising the important role the stars of our game play in using the power of football as a force for good in all of society.

“I would like to congratulate Lucas Radebe on winning the Premier League Award for Contribution to the Community. His efforts in helping local communities in both Leeds and South Africa are a fine example for footballers across Europe to follow.”

Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport, said: “”Lucas Radebe has set a shining example for his fellow professionals in the area of community work. His tireless efforts in the last decade and more help to tackle the image of footballers as people whose only focus is on their pay packets and the high life.

“Lucas has worked in some of the toughest areas in this country and the world, making a special connection with people; helping them to have more complete, enjoyable lives. I am delighted to have the chance to congratulate him on this award. He is a worthy winner.”

Gordon Taylor, Chief Executive of the PFA said: “Football’s high profile gives our top players the opportunity to be role models not only for their local communities but for society as a whole. Lucas Radebe has been that role model and his contribution to the community has been suitably recognised and is deserving of our most sincere congratulations.”

 

A great achievement indeed and one that shows the impact Lucas has had on modern day football and on the lives of the many people he has met.

 

Below are just a few other examples of the projects Lucas has supported and attended both on a personal and a Club level during recent years:-

 

  • Nominated as South Africa’s best player of the Decade
  • Awarded Kick Off magazine footballer of the decade
  • Was an ambassador for South Africa’s 2006 World Cup Bid
  • Is an ambassador for South Africa’s 2010 World Cup
  • Is Leeds United’s representative for the National Literacy Trust Reading Champion
  • Launched the 442 Family Reading Groups and is involved in marketing the project
  • Involved with Reach For a Dream – Making Kids Dreams become reality.
  • Works within the community of Diepkloof, Soweto, where he was raised
  • Takes part in annual Community Roadshows in South Africa where he visits underprivileged areas on behalf of Discovery Health
  • Appointed as an ambassador for the 2003 Cricket World Cup
  • ** – Was the recipient of the 2000/ 2001 FIFA Fair play award for his contribution to the sport, on and off the field of play.
  • ** – Winner of the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards for Contribution to the Community.  The award which is part of the Premier League’s 10 seasons celebrations which look back on the past decade of top-flight English football, recognises the player who has done most to use his position as a professional footballer to make a difference to people’s lives.
  • Recipient of the 2001 Loyalty Award from the Department of Welfare in South Africa in recognition of his work with SOS Children’s Villages and other charitable causes in South Africa.
  • Regular Personal Visits to Children with Cancer at St James’s Hospital, Leeds
  • Stephen Lawrence Awards Schools Presentation
  • Awarded the honour of lighting the Olympic Torch in South Africa in the recent torch marathon around the world prior to the Athens Olympic games
  • Farnley Park School, Leeds – presented Leeds United Against Racism Award,Mount St Mary’s School, Leeds – presented Leeds United Against Racism Award
  • Involved in the Princes Trust Clock Auction
  • Launched the Leeds United Book Challenge
  • Involved In the Leeds Cares Ball
  • Granted a Testimonial season in the UK by Leeds United Football Club for his long standing service to the club
  • Awarded a masters in social science by the University of Cape Town
  • Awarded a masters in social science by Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Was 1 of 8 Players worldwide to conduct the draw for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
  • Awarded SA Sports Personality of the year 2005

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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