Though humans are born with the propensity to be evil, some are just innately angelic.
I have known such a man, who dined with kings in Europe and still sat under a tree munching on a Kota with a bunch of unknowns in Atteridgeville. He rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous and still hugged those who hardly wore colognes. His status, superstar in the eyes of many, didn’t interfere with his ability to spell modesty or humility. His was proof that angels indeed live among us.
Years ago, while on duty for Independent Newspapers years ago, my former colleague Charles Baloyi and I were plunged into an embarrassing dungeon momentarily. We had joined a group of SuperSport United players, who were on a queue for lunch at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria. As football writers, we had watched then coach Gavin Hunt take his players through their paces during pre-season. It was time for lunch. The sight of Charles and I, on the queue to dish out, raised eyebrows as some members of the SuperSport technical team did not want us to feast on their account. It was just a matter of seconds before we got ejected from the queue, but someone came to our rescue. “I will pay for them,” uttered an angel, who pulled us out of the gutter.
That was the best words I heard that day. Having been a journalist for years, one of my pet hates is to be found wanting around food. I shall exercise restraint on this. Lunch may not mean much, in monetary terms, but the essence of saving someone, not from just hunger, but embarrassment is massive.
That’s one of the things I treasure the most about the memory of the late Thomas Madigage, the former SuperSport and Bafana Bafana player. On and off the pitch, Madigage was angelic. In his prime, Madigage, who boasted unparalleled football skills, saved many a team from embarrassment and led them to triumphs on certain occasions. Off the pitch, his heart was drawn towards the disadvantaged, with whom he shared what he had. For his efforts, Madigage received love from many people. To this day his name is still entrenched on their hearts. Only the Most High knows how many people were left destitute with the passing of Madigage in 2012. One of Madigage’s friends and SuperSport youth coach Kwanele Kopo once remarked:
“Thomas was such a giver in that he got paid on the 25th and by the 28th he was broke. He had shared his money with people, who are less fortunate.”
Madigage embodied desirable virtues that define a model human. One that is not easily enticed and lured by the need for material accumulation, which leads to existential emptiness, Madigage’s humility was second to none.
“Thomas was just a pillar of strength. He was just complete. Off the field, what a perfect gentleman. He would never pass somebody without greeting. Thomas did not see a footballer. He saw a person. When we signed a new youngster, he would take him aside and find out how he lived. He knew every player's family,”
said SuperSport boss Khulu Sibiya.
Even SuperSport management heed to his advice. It was Madigage who recommended Pitso Mosimane to be considered as coach of Matsatsantsa. SuperSport CEO Stan Matthews has stated the number of time where Madigage shared knowledge and strategies in a quest to help Matsatsantsa surge forward.
“Up to now, the club still utilizes some of Thomas’ inventions and advice. He did a lot for the club,”
Given our origins, which can be traced to Limpopo, Madigage and I called each other “Weshu” (loosely translated fellow brother). Such was Madigage’s humility that he allowed me, whenever I was at SuperSport training at Groenkloof, to enter his dressing room, which doubled as an office. On the board, I would see all tactical stuff SuperSport were plotting for an upcoming match. He didn’t even suspect that I could feed the information to their upcoming opponents. That was classic Madigage who assumed the good from everyone. He was free of prejudices. He was no backstabber or backbiter. He got along well with characters that others deemed beyond repair or redemption.
Madigage gave chances to the less deserving and as such his contribution towards the development of fellow human beings cannot be underestimated. At the time of his departure, Madigage had the plan to start a football academy in Limpopo to harness and hone talent.