AN INDEFATIGABLE spark gleamed in Senzo Meyiwa’s eyes as we stood chatting in the corridor at The Spencer on Byron Hotel on a cold evening in Auckland, New Zealand, five months ago.

Guests were making their way towards the nearby dining restaurant and some of the seemingly ravenous patrons rudely walked between us as we spoke. Despite the many interruptions, he never once lowered his gaze as he animatedly explained why he viewed the Bafana Bafana tour of New Zealand and Australia as an opportunity to reinvent himself from a personal and professional point of view.

No topic was off-limits during that frank conversation and he insisted I take notes.

He even candidly opened up about a troubled personal life that saw his name constantly splashed on the gossip pages, threatening to bury the incredibly talented goalkeeper in him under columns of tabloid space. The man voluntarily said the past few months had been challenging and he had had to develop a thick skin to deal with constant criticism from those who questioned his choices.

"People were saying I am losing form because of this thing that happened off the field," the Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper said at the time. "I think people do not understand, and always want us to be at our best. It is impossible sometimes."

He said he persevered because of the support he received from his family, his friends and Pirates administrative manager Floyd Mbele. But he had reason to be excited as his performance in Bafana’s friendly against Australia in Sydney a few days earlier earned rave reviews from Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, who said it was thanks to Meyiwa’s heroics that the hosts were held to a 1-1 draw.

He certainly lived up to his promise to turn his life around as not only did he become the Bafana No 1 goalkeeper a few weeks later, he also became his country’s captain.

Incredibly, he had not conceded a goal in four matches at the time of his death and Bafana are the only nation among the 24 competing for places to the 2015 African Nations Cup that has kept clean sheets. That is a hard act for any goalkeeper to follow and he leaves an impressive legacy.

I will always remember that spark in Meyiwa’s eye — his was a flame that no gun-toting coward will extinguish. My deepest condolences go out to the Meyiwa, Mwelase and the Mulaudzi families and friends during this difficult time.

In an age where some public personalities exude the deluded misconception that they are doing us mere mortals a huge favour by even looking in our direction, Meyiwa was incredibly humble. His modesty has been a common theme among those who knew him as they tried to make sense of what happened on that fateful Sunday night when some mindless dunderheads took his life in a shooting in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni. Did these schmucks even realise the magnitude of what they had done, and for what — a bloody cellphone? Christ.

South African football is poorer after his passing and this amazingly humble gentleman will be greatly missed.

Meyiwa’s death added to what has been a dark month for a country that was still dealing with Olympic silver medallist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi’s death only a few days ago. The 34-year-old Mulaudzi lost control of the Toyota Yaris he was driving while negotiating a curve on the R555 approaching eMalahleni (Witbank).

As if that were not enough, Phindile Mwelase — the boxer who fell into a coma after being knocked out earlier this month — also died a few days ago. She is the first woman fighter in SA to have died as a result of punishment undergone in the ring. Mwelase was taken off life support and moved out of intensive care last week, and it is understood she never regained consciousness. It has been a difficult time, hasn’t it?

Bafana coach Ephraim ‘‘Shakes" Mashaba will announce the team to face Sudan in an African Nations Cup qualifier tomorrow and it will be strange not to see Meyiwa’s name on that list.

I can’t even begin to imagine the mood in that Bafana camp when the players meet for the first time ahead of that November 15 encounter.

My hope is that they give it their all to see through what Meyiwa started, and get this team to the continental showpiece in Morocco next year.

I will always remember that spark in Meyiwa’s eye — his was a flame that no gun-toting coward will extinguish. My deepest condolences go out to the Meyiwa, Mwelase and the Mulaudzi families and friends during this difficult time.

May their souls rest in peace.

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