Johannesburg: The South African government has paid glowing tribute to South African Indian football legend Rashid Khan, who passed away in a hospital after a short illness.
"I have learnt with deep sadness of the passing on of one of the shining sons of our nation, Rashid Khan," said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
"The history of South African soccer would be incomplete and could indeed not make sense without the contribution of people such as Rashid. In a way, Rashid`s life is also synonymous with our nation`s history. Rashid emerged at the height of oppressive political conditions to put his stamp on the history of our football through his incredible footballing prowess."
Motlanthe said despite racists apartheid laws, Khan persisted with others of his time to make a contribution to the development of football in South Africa.
"Today, as we enjoy football in a free and democratic country where players are well-paid and infrastructure is taken for granted, it is all too easy to forget where our football comes from.
"It is equally easy to forget that without the impact of South Africans such as Rashid at a time when playing football was part athletics and part sacrifice, our football could have turned out worse. Instead his generation made the masses of poor soccer lovers happy," Motlanthe said.
"Football has been one of the uniting social forces in our history. We thank Rashid and his generation for giving us the delights on football as well as non-racial sport. One hopes that when the history of sport in our country is written, Rashid Khan`s name will assume the pride of place it so wonderfully deserves."
Khan`s soccer talents in the 1960`s and 1970`s drew massive crowds whenever he played and his talents were likened to the great George Best of Manchester United and Ireland.
Khan spent some time at Leeds in England, poised to break into the senior ranks, but for religious reasons decided to return home.