Johannesburg - Belgian football club Genk has retired the No 16 jersey worn by Anele Ngcongca following the former Bafana Bafana star's death.
The 33-year-old defender died in a car accident on Monday morning.
In a tribute to the fallen star, Genk said Ngcongca remained a popular figure at the Cristal Arena, where he won the league title in 2010/11.
Genk’s media manager Peter Morren said, “Number 16 will never be worn again in our club. We have learned the tragic news about Anele Ngcongca; he died in a car accident. In total, Anele played no fewer than 279 games for KRC Genk. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of our South African ex-player. RIP Anele.”
Belgium youth international Elias Sierra, who was wearing the No 16 jersey, said he would henceforth carry 19 on his back in honour of Ngcongca.
“Yes, this is true. In honour of him, the No 16 will be retired and because I had this number this season, I will get another number which is No 19,” Sierra said.
Ngcongca was held in high regard in Belgium following his spell with Genk, with whom he won the Pro League, two Belgian Cups and the Belgian Super Cup.
Several other Belgian clubs have publicly mourned the late player.
"Heartfelt condolences from everyone at RSC Anderlecht. We wish you all the strength," said the Pro League giants. KV Oostende tweeted, "Much strength to all relatives, family and friends!" Top-flight side KV Kortrijk also shared a post on its social media accounts in which it said, "KV Kortrijk has heard the tragic news about Anele. The entire KVK-family wishes their family and friends much strength. RIP Anele."
Ngcongca also won several trophies in a stint with Mamelodi Sundowns. At the time of his death he was in the process of moving to AmaZulu on loan.
“AmaZulu FC and Mamelodi Sundowns FC extend their deepest condolences to the Ngcongca family‚ teammates‚ supporters and the broader football fraternity‚ as well as everyone who was touched by the life of this exceptional football ambassador‚” the two clubs said in a joint statement.
Ngcongca made more than 100 appearances for Sundowns, lifting three league titles, the Telkom Knockout, the Nedbank Cup and the CAF Super Cup.
He was also a fixture in the national team, earning over 50 caps and featuring for Bafana Bafana at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which South Africa famously hosted as the first and only African country to ever do so, as well as representation the nation at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
South Africa Football Association president Danny Jordaan paid tribute to the defender, and bemoaned the continued deaths of footballers in car accidents in South Africa.
“We have lost a number of our players through road accidents and I cannot explain enough the importance of adhering to speed limits and other driving regulations. Do not drink and drive. Do not speed, and take rest when you’re tired‚” Jordaan said.