Sinethemba Jantjie: Star winger who gave his all to a PSL club facing the big drop
Sinethemba Jantjie, an outstanding winger for the Premier Soccer League club Free State Stars, died in a road accident last Monday. He was 30.
Jantjie joined Stars four years ago from the National First Division club Mbombela United.
He was a late bloomer, only emerging at a premier league club at the age of 26.
This did not deter Jantjie, who was set to join Bidvest Wits in June, having clinched a four-year deal worth R4.5m with the club.
Jantjie was born in Whittlesea, near Queenstown, in the Eastern Cape.
Free State Stars manager Rantsi Mokoena described Jantjie as a "bubbly guy" who always gave his best on the field of play.
He played 78 matches over three years for the Free State team, nicknamed Ea Lla Koto.
His last match was a 4-1 home win against AmaZulu on March 16.
The fact that he continued to be dedicated to Stars in spite of having signed a contract with Wits showed his maturity, according to Mokoena.
"We all know how the relationship between the players and their employers often deteriorates after players have signed better contracts elsewhere.
"With Sinethemba, whom I mostly referred to as Mhlekazi, simply because he was from the Eastern Cape, there was no such issue, which shows he had a perfect home here at Stars," said Mokoena.
"We knew in January that he'd signed a pre-contract with Wits but he played all the games this year with commitment. He never showed any signs of never giving his best in a game. He was always committed to Stars."
After showing brilliant form last season under former coach Luc Eymael, Jantjie became a vital cog of the struggling team this season, featuring in 20 of the 24 matches and scoring four league goals.
Even though he didn't score a goal when Stars shone all the way to lifting the Nedbank Cup last season, Jantjie made a telling contribution. Making the 1-0 victory over Maritzburg United in the final in Cape Town even sweeter was that it was only the second trophy the club had won in the professional ranks. Its previous title was the Coca-Cola Cup captured 24 years ago.
Stars also finished sixth on the log last season but found themselves in the relegation zone in the current season that is to end soon.
Jantjie's agent, Ratshibvumo Mulovhedzi, said no money had changed hands between the player and Wits before the accident, but the player had been looking forward to starting a new life in Johannesburg in June.
"We had already found a house for Sinethemba in Johannesburg, having signed a pre-contract of four years with Wits," said Mulovhedzi.
"While looking forward to a new challenge, his heart was still dedicated to Stars and he was doing everything he could to ensure they survived [being relegated] this season."
Four years ago, Stars lost another player in a road accident. Striker Richard Henyekane died in a car crash in the early hours of April 7 2015.
Jantjie, who was buried in Whittlesea yesterday, is survived by his sister Bukelwa and three brothers Andile, Malibongwe and Asisipho.