Kabelo Masalesa, an eleven-year-old budding soccer star from Alexandra, has met a tragic end after drowning in a swimming pool during a trip to Palestine. Palestinian authorities informed the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) about the incident on Sunday.
Masalesa, from the local soccer team Black Poison, flew to Palestine on 13 July. He was set to return on Thursday (21 July) after competing in a soccer tournament against a Palestinian team. The South African team is said to have won 2-1 against the Palestinian team.
“Yesterday [18 July], we had a telephone conversation with our officials that are in Palestine. At that moment, they told us the details are still sketchy, but the police were doing the investigation,” said Zimasa Velaphi, who is the Head of Communication at the Dept. of Sport.
She stated that the department would desist from speculation while an official investigation is underway.
“We don’t want to make any speculation … we’re waiting for the reports from the Palestinian police as well as our team that [is] in Palestine,” she said.
Back at home, family, friends and his soccer coach all paid tribute to Masalesa. He has been remembered as a rising star with a bright future.
His coach Phathutshedzo Maseko, who had been training him for the past three years, said Masalesa was a bubbly child.
“He was a very bubbly child, always smiling and always encouraging his team members. He was a good soul,” he told TimesLIVE.
“This is a huge loss for us as a team and a community. I can’t express how I feel. It was really hard to break the news, but I had to do it. I told the team yesterday afternoon and we were all in tears.”
Masalesa’s teammates were at a loss for words and have requested a match in his honour.
“We are all still very much traumatised. We’re in Palestine, but we’re going to carry on with the tour and finish the draw in the name of Kabelo,” said team coach Abubaker Cassiem, adding that “we’re trying to keep ourselves very strong for the sake of the other kids and trying to make it better for them.”
Support for the Masalesa family
Velaphi confirmed to Salaamedia that the department had arranged for three Masalesa family members to travel to Palestine. She added that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is on board to assist with the return of Masalesa’s body.
She also said Masalesa’s family and teammates had been offered counselling as the experience ought to have been traumatic for them.
“What we’ve done for Kabelo’s family, through the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts and Recreation, there is psychological support that is being availed to the family for counselling and that is one of the things that the High Commissioner in Palestine was working on for the team that is there.
Velaphi said this support would continue even after the teams return to South Africa.
“Of course, when they come back we will make sure that those services continue because it is a traumatic experience and especially for children,” said Velaphi.