Former Leeds striker Phil Masinga has died at the age of 49, the club have announced.
The South African played in the Premier League for the Yorkshire club for two years after joining from Mamelodi Sundowns in 1994.
“It is with great sadness that the club has learnt of former striker Phil Masinga’s passing. The thoughts of everyone at #LUFC are with his family and friends,” the club said on Twitter.
No details about his death have been announced.
Masinga was signed for Leeds by then manager Howard Wilkinson at the same time as his compatriot Lucas Radebe and went on to score five times in 31 league appearances for the Elland Road side.
He left for Swiss team St Gallen in 2006 and went on to play for Salernitana and Bari in Italy.
He won 58 caps for South Africa, helping them win the African Nations Cup on home soil in 1996.
He also scored the decisive goal against Congo which sealed South Africa’s qualification for the 1998 World Cup, the first time they had qualified for the tournament.
South African Football Association president Dr Danny Jordaan, who said Masinga was “in good spirits” when he saw him a week ago, described the former player as a “giant” and a “hero”.
He said on the SAFA website: “We have lost a giant of South African Football, this is a sad day for our football.
“I am really gutted. I saw him last Sunday before I flew to Dakar and, although he was not feeling well, he was in good spirits and I promised to visit him again sometime this week and now our hero is gone.
“Phil was a loyal servant of the game, on and off the field of play. His goal against Congo which took us to our first World Cup in France in 1998 is still the most celebrated goal in the country to date.
Really sad news to learn that a guy I spent so much time with , laughs and games together has passed away , he was not just a friend and strike partner but one of the nicest kindest guys I've met , was a pleasure and privilege to have know and played with you phil,always in my â¤ï¸ pic.twitter.com/dPDWDfGrY7— Noel David Whelan (@NoelDavidWhelan) January 13, 2019
Masinga’s former Leeds team-mates also paid emotional tributes to the striker.
Tony Dorigo said on Twitter: “Very sad news, RIP my friend. I’ll never forget Phil and the chief arriving at #ER full of smiles and hope…..and thermals!! Thoughts with his friends and family.”
Noel Whelan tweeted: “Really sad news to learn that a guy I spent so much time with , laughs and games together has passed away, he was not just a friend and strike partner but one of the nicest kindest guys I’ve met , was a pleasure and privilege to have know and played with you phil.”
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright wrote: “Rest in Peace Phil. We’ll never forget your goal that took South Africa to their first World Cup in 1998. A legend of South African football and loved by @LUFC and Sundowns fans around the world. #RIPPhilMasinga.”
We love to remember you with a big smile and a white jersey on! R.I.P. Phil 🙏🙏💛💙 pic.twitter.com/yfV8rwsANp— Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) January 13, 2019
Former Leeds defender Dominic Matteo said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear the news of Masinga’s death, adding on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and @LucasRadebe who I know will be devastated at losing his pal #RIP #LUFC #gonetoosoon.”
And Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani tweeted: “We love to remember you with a big smile and a white jersey on! R.I.P. Phil.”