It’s reported that Cele, a footballer who previously spent some in the AmaZulu setup, has gone missing after travelling to Georgia for what is alleged to have been a ‘bogus’ football trial with Gagra FC.
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The 22-year-old last spoke to his family on 3 June when he was expected to be coming home, which came after a frightening experience in Georgia, which some reports suggest ended in his arrest.
The former TS Sporting player was hoping to find a club to play for in Europe, and thought he was being helped by an agent he met while in the Nedbank Ke Yona squad.
“Thulani’s trip to Georgia was organised by a man named Baggio that we met through the Nedbank Ke Yona initiative,” his father also explained. “We then paid for Thulani’s travelling costs and Baggio was supposed to book for his accommodation and Thulani gave Baggio’s connection that side money for his accommodation when he got there .
“A week into his stay there, he was told by the manager of the hotel that he hadn’t paid for his stay and should settle the bill, which came as a surprise because he had given that guy money for accommodation.
“After consulting with Baggio about his situation and the fact he had been reduced to one meal a day because of his debt, Baggio assured him he would pay the hotel but we can hardly reach him, and if we’re lucky, and he picks up, he would tell us he’s still making loans and trying to sort out the situation.”
The agent in question, Collen ‘Baggio’ Mashawa, has now spoken to Soccer Laduma about the missing footballer.
“I’m heavy-hearted and at my lowest point at this stage. I’m finding it difficult to process anything. I’ve been receiving quite a number of calls and it’s been very tough. It’s been a torrid and difficult time for those that are affected,” he said.
“I’m finding it very difficult, but I find solace in prayer that we will locate Thulani for him to return home safely. Until such as time, we can only just pray and do whatever necessary to deal with this whole ordeal and situation. It’s not nice when you lose somebody under your watch, and you can’t trace them and can’t find leads.
“One will just have to cooperate so that we can be able to find some direction towards Thulani. This outweighs all the good that one has done as public scrutiny and fingers are levelled towards you. The good that one has done over time with other players will be overshadowed because of this whole situation. But it’s okay, one will roll with the punches, and we will weather the storm,” concluded an emotional Mashawa.
It’s also been suggested that the former AmaZulu footballer could have been arrested
His father, Bongani Cele, has said the family is extremely worried at the moment.
“As a family we are very concerned about the disappearance of Thulani. He left on 4 May for trials in Georgia. On 3 June, he called to say he’s coming back home but he never arrived,” said Cele.
“We then got a call from someone in Georgia saying he has been arrested. We haven’t heard from him since then.
“Thulani told us he was having problems at the hotel because Baggio had not paid. He called us crying to say he’s not even eating there. Apparently when my son got there, he was told the team was away and he couldn’t train.
“Then he was told the coach had been fired and he must wait until a new one (was hired so he can be assessed). Eventually, he didn’t even trial with this team called Gagra FC.
“As a family we have tried everything. We called the SA government, they told us they don’t have an embassy in Georgia. We now don’t know what to do, that’s why we have come on your radio station. Things are tense in our house, we can’t even sleep cos we don’t know where our child is.
“We had paid everything, including his return ticket. But while he was there he kept telling us that the situation is not good, he’s not even eating.
“That’s when he decided to come back home on that ticket. But it looks like he didn’t get on the plane. What we also don’t understand as the family is that there was another SA player there with Thulani, his name is Masego.
“This player was staying with Thulani and was able to come back home from Georgia but not Thulani.”
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