The Bafana twitter account confirmed on Sunday that Masinga had sadly passed away.
“Sad day for South African football. A loyal servant of the game, on and off the field of play, SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan was quoted as saying by Bafana’s twitter account.
The Bafana Bafana account confirmed this in a tweet earlier on Sunday.
According to reports, Masinga was hospitalised in December.Masinga had been recovering well after he was admitted to hospital with an undisclosed illness. He will fondly be remembered his goal-scoring prowess for club and country.
Masinga was also part of South Africa’s golden generation of footballers who plied their trade overseas for many years.
His football career started in the youth ranks for Kaizer Chiefs. He left to play for Jomo Cosmos and then joined Mamelodi Sundowns before making the big move to England.
When he got to Leeds, he spent two seasons at the club with his teammate Lucas Radebe.
Masinga scored 18 goals in 58 matches between 1992 and 2001 for South Africa, including the strike against Republic of Congo, in 1997, that famously secured Bafana Bafana’s first World Cup finals appearance, at the 1998 tournament in France. He featured in the South Africa side that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and finished second to Egypt in the 1998 tournament.
Masinga’s goal-scoring prowess with Pretoria-based club Mamelodi Sundowns led to a move to Leeds, then in England’s top-flight, in 1994. He was part of the same deal that also took compatriot Lucas Radebe to Leeds.
Reportedly, Radebe was only part of the deal to keep Masinga, viewed as the more valuable asset, happy in a foreign land.
As it turned out, Masinga was at Leeds for two years while Radebe stayed nine and went on to captain the club and make more than 200 appearances.
Despite Masinga not delivering the goals Leeds hoped for he was still immensely popular at the club.
Masinga played for Leeds until 1996, after which he moved to St Gallen in Switzerland. He played subsequently for Salernitana and Bari in Italy before finishing his playing career with Al Wahda in Abu Dhabi.
Now in the fourth tier of Italian soccer, Bari players held a minute’s silence for Masinga at their match on Sunday.
Leeds United tweeted: “It is with great sadness that the club has learnt of former striker Phil Masinga’s passing. The thoughts of everyone at the club are with his family and friends.”
Former Leeds players also paid tribute. Defender 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.”#
Dominic Matteo added: “Shocked and saddened to hear the News of Phil Masinga passing away at such a young age. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and @LucasRadebe who I know will be devastated at losing his pal #RIP #LUFC #gonetoosoon”
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.”
He scored several goals for the side during his stay before heading to play in Switzerland and Italy.
Masinga had a short stint in Abu Dhabi before calling time on his career.
He will be etched in South Africa soccer history for his goal against Congo that took Bafana to the 1998 World Cup. He was a firm favourite amongst fans, who are paying tribute to Masinga on social media.
SAFA President Danny Jordaan said on Twitter that it was a sad day for South African football as Masinga was a ‘servant of the game on and off the field’.