‘We thought it was just flu, not cancer’, says father of late AmaZulu FC player Bonginkosi Ntuli
The family of the late AmaZulu Football Club forward Bonginkosi Ntuli is trying to come to terms with his sudden death.
Ntuli passed away on Sunday at the age of 32 from what his club described as an “aggressive form of cancer” shortly after he was diagnosed.
His father Thulani Ntuli said his son died after a short illness the family had initially thought was flu, but which turned out to be lung cancer that was diagnosed at an advanced stage.
“We thought it was just flu but when we realised it was getting worse we took him to hospital in Durban, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong. We decided to take him to another hospital in Pietermaritzburg because this ‘flu’ was not getting any better. There they discovered he had lung cancer.”
“They drew around one litre of water and blood from his lungs which showed it was at an advanced stage. So he died of lung cancer.”
He said Bonginkosi’s death was a big blow to the family as they had lost a responsible man who would attend to every need as soon as possible.
“We were very dependent on him. I would tell him ‘you’re the head of this home’ because I was looking at his good deeds at home.”
Ntuli senior was speaking at the family home in KwaNyavu in KwaNyuswa where AmaZulu FC went to pay tribute on Tuesday.
He said Bongi was the last born of three children and the only son. Bonginkosi had five children and married club CEO Sne Zungu in September.
He died on the same day, November 5, the families were to have their umabo — a part of a traditional wedding where the bride presents gifts to the groom's family.
His father said his death was untimely and left him with unanswered questions as it was also the day his son was to start his journey of being a fully practising member of the Nazareth Christian church.
“He had bought a uniform for his traditional dance with his wife which would pave the way for him to be a practising member of eBuhleni, but his days had run out. ”
He said the sudden nature of his passing was hurtful and was making it harder for him to deal with the loss.
“I ask myself what really happened to Bongi because you can see a sick person but it didn't come to that with my son. He would come and play video games with others. You'd hear a few coughs here and there but nothing much.”
Club president and Ntuli’s father-in-law Sandile Zungu described him as a “unifying figure” within the team and a mentor whose contributions were valued by youngsters and his fellow senior players.
“He leaves all of us with many anecdotes that will keep us entertained for a very long time. We’ve lost a jewel in Bonginkosi Ntuli and his absence will be felt for a very long time,” said Zungu.
Ntuli’s best season was in 2019/20 when he contributed to 70% of AmaZulu’s 20 league goals, scoring 13 and assisting once. That tally ensured the club avoided relegation.
Zungu said Ntuli played a huge role in ensuring he bought the club the following season
“When AmaZulu was faced with relegation he almost single-handedly delivered all the goals that rescued the team. I have no doubt that had they not remained in top flight we, as the Zungu family, would not have had an opportunity to buy the team. So we owe that to the efforts of people like Ntuli and his peers.”
Mbongeni Gumede, who was Ntuli’s teammate throughout his time at AmaZulu, said they the team was hurting as he was more than just a friend.
“We called him Mdeva. On and off the field he was bubbly, always smiling and happy. He was a kind person who didn’t have any problem with anyone. I’ve not only lost a friend but a brother.”
Zungu said they were comforted by the fact that the last game Ntuli watched was their 3-0 Carling Black Label Cup quarterfinal win against local rivals Golden Arrows at Moses Mabhida stadium on Saturday.
The team is due to face the same opponents again this coming Sunday and Zungu confirmed they have chosen to play the match instead of asking for a postponement.
“We will assess in due course if the team is in the right frame of mind to play on Sunday. There is no question about it that the players have been touched by the sudden loss of one of their best loved colleagues and we organised a counselling session for them. We know the fixtures are quite congested going forward. Sometimes you postpone (only to get) into difficulties.”
He said it was too early to talk about retiring Ntuli’s number 7 jersey, permanently or temporarily.
Ntuli's memorial service will be held at Moses Mabhida stadium today and his funeral service at his home tomorrow.
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