Lucas Radebe: the Kaizer ‘Chief’

leeds defender lucas radebe

Player Profile: Lucas Radebe

Date of Birth: 12/04/1969
Height: 1.80 m
Position: Centre Back
National Team: South Africa
International Caps: 70
International Goals: 2

Club Career

A legend of South African football, Lucas Radebe played for just two clubs during the course of his career. At both, he remains a revered figure.

Radebe started out at South African glamour club, Kaizer Chiefs initially as a goalkeeper in their youth team. He later moved to midfield and it was there that he made his debut for Chiefs in 1990 against Pretoria City.

He went on to play 113 times for the club, scoring 5 goals with most coming from the penalty spot. During his time at Chiefs, Radebe helped the club win two league titles as well as six cup competitions.

Along with Kaizer Chiefs striker, Philemon Masinga, Radebe joined Leeds in 1994 with the Yorkshire based club paying just £250,000 for their services. Interestingly, Leeds were more interested in Masinga but wanted to ensure he would be happy at the club, so they bought Radebe as well.

While Masinga had an impact at Leeds, that of Radebe was even more significant, so much so that by the time he finished at the club, he had established himself as a Leeds legend.

But it didn’t look that way to start!

For the first part of his Leeds career, Radebe was often injured and that curtailed his chances of making an impact. He wasn’t particularly fancied by then manager Howard Wilkinson either, which certainly didn’t help and he only played sporadically.

But a change of management and an injury free run changed everything. George Graham, the former league winning manager of Arsenal, joined Leeds in 1996 and was the catalyst that kick-started Radebe’s career at Elland Road.

The next season, Leeds would qualify for the Champions League after finishing third in the Premier League. Although they only managed one season in the Champion’s League, it was a memorable one when in 2000/2001 they progressed from the group stages at the expense of Barcelona only to lose 3-0 to Valencia in the semi-final of Europe’s biggest club competition.

Named captain of the club during the 1998/99 seasons, Radebe helped to guide Leeds to a Top 4 finish in the English Premiership. This saw the Yorkshire club qualify for the UEFA Cup, having just missed out on Champions League qualification. They managed to make it to the semi finals of that competition before they were knocked out by Galatasaray of Turkey.

One of Radebe’s strangest stories from his time at Leeds came from 1996 when he was forced to play in goal after keeper Mark Beeney was sent off against Manchester United. From his introduction in the 17th minute, Radebe thwarted attack after attack from United, a team boasting the finishing prowess of Andy Cole, Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona. Sadly, he was eventually beaten in the 73rd minute by a shot from Roy Keane as Leeds lost 1-0.

Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time that Radebe had played in goal for the club. Just a month earlier, he also filled in as a shot stopper in a match against Middlesborough where he even managed to keep a clean sheet!

Radebe’s Leeds career came to an end in 2005 when injury forced him to hang up his boots for good. He made 201 league appearances for the club but never managed a league goal.  

International Career

Lucas Radebe first stepped out for Bafana Bafana, the South African national football side in 1992. He went on to secure 70 caps and scored two goals before retiring from international football in 2003.

Radebe was famously part of the team that won the 1996 African Cup of Nations, beating Tunisia in the final with a brace from Mark Williams bringing the trophy home.

He also captained Bafana Bafana at both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups in France and South Korea/Japan respectively. South Africa were knocked out in the group stages on both occasions, but Radebe did have the honour of scoring a World Cup goal when he netted in a 3-2 loss to Spain in 2002.

Radebe formed a formidable centre back pairing in the national side with Mark Fish, another South African with English Premier League experience thanks to his time at Charlton.

Where is Lucas Radebe now?

Radebe has been very active in charity work since his career came to an end. In fact, even while he was still playing, he helped many South African charities.

He has appeared as a TV pundit both locally and for overseas stations, including ITV at the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Lucas Radebe

– Radebe is known by two different nicknames. In England, he was called “The Chief” by Leeds United fans, while back in South Africa, he is simply known as “Rhoo”.

– Famously, English band Kaiser Chiefs, named themselves after Radebe’s first club. However, they got the spelling wrong. It’s a “z” in Kaizer, not an “s”.

– In 2004, he was nominated as the 54th Greatest South African of All Time.

– Radebe suffered a gunshot wound in 1991 while walking in Soweto.

– In 2008, a brewery in Leeds asked their clients to suggest a name for their new beer. “Radebeer” was the clear winner!

– A suite at Elland Road, the home ground of Leeds United, is named in his honour.

– His son, Lucas Radebe, Jr went on trial at Leeds for a week in 2018.

– While playing for Kaizer Chiefs, Radebe said the team he always wanted to beat was Orlando Pirates, even though they almost signed him before the Chiefs did.