Bloemfontein woke up in a sombre mood on Tuesday morning as people came together to bid farewell to the founder of Bloemfontein Celtic, Dr Petrus Rantlai Molemela.
Throughout the streets of Mangaung residents were dressed in Celtic colours to show their respect to Ntate Molemela.
The funeral proceedings began at his family home in Rocklands where the family had a private viewing of his body. The proceedings then moved through Chief Moroka Crescent and Moshoeshoe Road, leading to the Dr Rantlai Molemela Stadium.
Molemela received a special official provincial funeral as a way of commemorating the great influence he had in the football fraternity as well as in building the Free State province.
Attendees included political dignitaries such as Premier Ace Magashule, Sports Minister, Thulas Nxesi, FS Sports MEC, Mathabo Leeto and Mangaung Metro Mayor, Olly Mlamlelli.
Free State Judge President, Justice Mahube Molemela, delivered Molemela’s obituary, highlighting his life from the difficulties he faced as a young boy who lost his father at an early age, which forced him to start working, to how he became a great entrepreneur and took the Bloemfontein Celtic Football club to greater heights.
Premier Ace Magashule praised Molemela’s business acumen, stating that the youth of today should use Molemela as an example of how to make things happen for themselves. Mangaung business man, Freddy Kenny, thanked Molemela for changing the lives of the Free State people and teaching them how to improve the economy of the province.
Chairman of the Premier Soccer League (PSL), Dr Irvin Khoza, took a trip down memory lane, remembering the many life lessons Molemela offered to the soccer fraternity. He also reminded attendees that Molemela changed the PSL by being the first to introduce international players into his team.
South African Football Association (SAFA) president, Danny Jordaan, said that the current Celtic owner, Max Tshabalala, should take the opportunity to build on Molemela’s legacy. “Where else do you have a club playing home games in a stadium named after a founding father? Nowhere else. Bloemfontein Celtic is the only one,” he said.
Bloemfontein Celtic supporters took the moment to sing to Ntate Molemela one last time before he was laid to rest at the Phahameng Cemetery.
Molemela will be remembered as a man who helped build Bloemfontein through encouraging its residents to stand behind a football team.
Article and Photos – Seithati Semenokane