South African national football team captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was shot and killed late Sunday during a home robbery south of Johannesburg, police said.
Meyiwa, who played for the South African football club Orlando Pirates, was gunned down after intruders broke into the house of his pop-star girlfriend Kelly Khumalo in the Vosloorus township.
"Words cannot express the nation's shock at this loss," said South African President Jacob Zuma. He said police must "leave no stone unturned in finding his killers" and bringing them to justice.
Meyiwa's colleagues paid tribute to the 27-year-old footballer during an emotional press conference on Monday. Fighting back tears, South African national football coach Shakes Mashaba described Meyiwa as a "very kind person" who "would always be the leader."
"We're going to miss Senzo a lot ... never mind his saving goals."
Spain's World Cup winning goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas posted a picture of Meyiwa on his Instagram account after the pair had swapped jerseys, saying: "Very sad for the dramatic loss of friend RIP Senzo."
FIFA president Sepp Blatter described Meyiwa's killing as a "senseless, tragic loss."
Hunt for suspects
Reports say Meyiwa was fatally shot after two men entered the Vosloorus home at around 8pm local time (1800 UTC) and demanded cell phones, while a third stood guard outside.
After an altercation, "a shot was fired, the goalkeeper was hit in the upper body and was taken to hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival," National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said. The three suspects, described as being aged in their late 20s or early 30s, fled on foot with one cell phone.
Phiyega said a team of top national and provincial officers had been assigned to investigate the murder. Police have appealed to the public for information, and have offered a reward of 250,000 rand (18,000 euro / $23,000) for any tips leading to an arrest.
"We believe that someone, somewhere, somehow knows something about this crime," Phiyega said.
Sports community in mourning
Meyiwa had been enjoying a great run of form with the national team, and his club, Orlando Pirates, is one of the most popular in South Africa. Out of respect for Meyiwa, South Africa's Premier Soccer League has postponed this weekend's derby game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs - the country's two biggest clubs.
Meyiwa's killing was the second death to hit South African sport in three days after former 800-meter world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was killed in a car crash on Friday.
Gun crime and murder continue to plague South Africa. According to police figures, more than 17,000 people were murdered in the country between April 2013 and March 2014.
nm/glb (Reuters, AFP, AP)