The Tragic Murder Of Pro Soccer Player Senzo Meyiwa Explained

South African soccer star Senzo Meyiwa was at arguably the apex of his career in 2014. He was a goalkeeper for both the South African national team and the ​​Johannesburg-based Orlando Pirates F.C. However, his career came to an abrupt end when he was murdered at just 27 years old in what was initially described as a botched robbery, while at his girlfriend's mother's house.

According to The Chronicle, the case has since dragged on for nearly eight years despite as many as six possible eyewitnesses being present during the murder. In 2022, five men who were allegedly hired to carry out a hit on Meyiwa were charged with the murder and brought to trial.

In 2022, Meyiwa's murder became the subject of a Netflix documentary, called "Senzo: Murder of a Soccer Star," a five-part series that looks into the details of the case and features interviews with those close to the late athlete.

Meyiwa's early career

According to TransferMarkt, Senzo Meyiwa was born on September 24, 1987, in Durban, South Africa. While Meyiwa went on to become known as a goalkeeper he started his career upfield as a striker for his hometown team, the London Cosmos in Umlazi, Durban as a kid (via Sport24).

He eventually made the switch to goalkeeper and played on under-14 and under-17 circuits when he was only 13 years old. His stellar play caught scouts' attention, especially those working for Orlando Pirates F.C. He made his debut with the club during a Premier Soccer League match in 2006, which was a 2-1 victory over AmaZulu F.C. This was his only appearance that season.

The next season, Meyiwa appeared in 24 games, racking up over 2,100 total minutes. In that time he gave up only 21 goals and even recorded 8 shutouts. Over the next few seasons, he'd make fewer appearances. He made only one appearance in the 09-10 season but it was a shutout.

Meyiwa's career with the South African national team

According to Bleacher Report, Meyiwa had helped lead the Orlando Pirates to back-to-back Premier Soccer League championships. In 2013, he started playing for the South African national team and it was then that his skills in front of the net became even more apparent to soccer fans outside of South Africa. According to TransferMarkt, Meyiwa spent quite a few matches on the bench before making his on-field debut on November 15, 2013, in a friendly against Swaziland. The match ended in a 0-0 draw, but Meyiwa had earned his first international clean sheet.

His next appearance was in another friendly, this time against Australia, and once again, he kept the South African squad in it, with that match ending in a 1-1 draw, but that wound up being the only goal Meyiwa allowed in his international appearances. He didn't allow a goal in his next four starts, which all ended in either scoreless draws or South Africa wins.

Senzo Meyiwa is murdered

By 2014, Senzo Meyiwa was one of the biggest names in South African soccer, and according to Bleacher Report, he was even named the team's captain. Tragically, it all came to an end on October 26, 2014.

That night, Meyiwa had been at his girlfriend's mother's house, his girlfriend at the time being pop singer Kelly Khumalo (via The Chronicle). It was reported from the beginning that two gunmen stormed into the house in what appeared to be an attempted robbery. Another accomplice was waiting outside, as the two gunmen demanded that those in the house hand over their cellphones and money.

According to USA Today, a police spokesperson announced afterward that the star goalkeeper had been shot in the upper body, and had died from his injuries. Meyiwa's friend, Tumelo Waka Madlala, was in the house and told the Associated Press that Meyiwa had tried to stop the assailants before he was shot. "As they were running away we tried to stop them and that is when they shot him at point-blank range," Madlala said.

The reaction to Meyiwa's death

Meyiwa's death hit South Africa and the soccer community hard. "Most of the time, these things come when you least expect," South African national team coach Mashaba said, fighting through tears, per USA Today. "We're going to miss Senzo a lot ... never mind his saving goals."

Orlando Pirates F.C. chairman Dr. Irvin Khoza called Meyyiwa's death "a sad loss to Senzo's family especially his children, to Orlando Pirates and the nation."

Not long after Meyiwa's murder, the Orlando Pirates were set to take on their rivals, the Kaiser Chiefs. This game was postponed, according to ESPN. ​​"Out of respect for Senzo, the derby match will not take place this weekend. We will communicate the logistics in due time," the head of the league, Brand de Viliers, said.

South African Football Association CEO Dennis Mumble mentioned the effect the loss of Meyiwa had on the entire country. "It's safe to say that the country was crying after we heard this news. Whoever you spoke to, the nation is mourning. It's a very sad time for us, a difficult time. We need to mourn him, but also celebrate what he stood for," he said.

The lengthy investigation into the murder of Senzo Meyiwa

The investigation into who killed Senzo Meyiwa was a long one. According to Times Live, police released a sketch of a suspect just days after the murder, and within a few months, ballistic information indicated that the goalkeeper had been killed with a CZ75 9mm pistol.

A series of roadblocks, including one suspect on investigators' radar winding up dead himself, led to little movement on the case until five men were charged in connection with the crime, all of them already serving time for other, unrelated offenses. The five were accused of carrying out a hit on the soccer star, and one of the men was already serving a 30-year prison sentence for a murder committed with a CZ75 9mm pistol when charged in connection with Meyiwa's death.

In 2022, ahead of the trial, another possible problem threatened to prolong things even further. Four of the five accused men were being represented by the same attorney, according to Times Live. That attorney, Malesela Teffo, had at one point represented Meyiwa's brother Sifiso, a situation that raised concerns over a possible conflict of interest. As of this article's publication, both the murder trial and Netflix documentary are expected to begin in April 2022.