Former South Africa World Cup defender Anele Ngcongca, who died Monday in a car accident near Durban aged just 33, has been hailed by his former coach, Pitso Mosimane, as an "unsung hero".
"We were blessed to have him," Mosimane told AFP as he recalled the four years they spent together at Mamelodi Sundowns before both left the Pretoria outfit recently.
Mosimane joined record eight-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt while Ngcongca moved to AmaZulu, another top-flight South African club who are based in Durban.
"He brought so much experience to Sundowns having played in Europe and was a brilliant man marker. If our opponents had a star attacker, I would assign Anele to shadow him.
"On the field he was a great if often underrated footballer and off the field he was an absolute gentleman. My condolences to all those who knew and loved Anele."
His agent, former Orlando Pirates coach Mike Makaab, said: "My heart is sore. I have lost my son, Anele Ngcongca, a young man with whom I shared a special relationship for over a decade."
Ngcongca made the squad of 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa and played in a 2-1 group victory over France that was not enough to prevent a first-round exit.
Born in Cape Town, he played 53 times for Bafana Bafana as a full-back with his last appearance coming four years ago.
Ngcongca made his professional debut with FC Fortune in his home city, then spent nine years in Europe, playing for Genk in Belgium and on loan to Troyes in France.
He died when flung from a car in which he was a passenger after it lost control, an AmaZulu official confirmed.