South Africans mourn sport deaths

Associated Press

October 30, 2014

JOHANNESBURG Singing hymns and blowing vuvuzelas, South African sporting fans on Thursday paid final respects to three sporting figures who died within three days of each other.

South Africa's sport ministry organized a combined memorial service for fans of national soccer captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, Olympic silver medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and welterweight boxer Phindile Mwelase.

Along with supporters wearing club and national jerseys, South Africa's sporting figures and officials gathered at an indoor sports arena in downtown Johannesburg. The crowd became silent as the families of the deceased entered the hall.

"It is under sad circumstances, but it gives us another opportunity to stand together as a country," Jean de Villiers, South Africa's rugby captain, said in an interview with state broadcaster SABC. De Villiers wore his green and gold Springboks suit jacket.

Meyiwa was killed in an apparent robbery on Sunday while Mulaudzi, an 800-meter world champion, died in a car crash on Friday. Female boxer Mwelase died Saturday after two weeks in a coma following a bout.

South Africa's national soccer coach Ephraim Mashaba has delayed naming the squad set to play in two qualifying games in the African Cup of Nations. Mashaba, who was due to announce the team on Thursday, said Meyiwa would have been the first name on his list.

Meyiwa was also the goalkeeper of Orlando Pirates, one of South Africa's most popular club soccer teams. At the memorial, some fans wore jerseys of the Kaizer Chiefs club, the rival of Orlando Pirates.

All three sporting figures will be buried in their hometowns over the weekend.