S Africa football captain Senzo Meyiwa shot dead

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Media caption,

South Africa's football coach Ephraim Mashaba paid a tearful tribute to captain Senzo Meyiwa

South Africa's football captain Senzo Meyiwa has died after being shot during a burglary, police say.

He was reportedly attacked after men entered his girlfriend's house in Vosloorus, south of Johannesburg.

His agent described him as a humble man from a tough background who had become a "hero in everyone's eyes".

The 27-year-old was the goalkeeper for Orlando Pirates and had played in South Africa's last four Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

On Saturday, he was in action for his club, when they progressed to the semi-finals of the South African League Cup, beating Ajax Cape Town 4-1.

Reward offered

In a statement, the South African Police Service said two men had entered the house, around 20:00 (18:00 GMT), demanding mobiles phones and valuables. A third man remained outside.

Image source, Reuters
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Reports said Meyiwa may have been trying to defend his girlfriend, Kelly Khumalo

All three fled on foot after shots were fired.

The footballer may have been trying to defend his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo, a South African singer and celebrity, when he was shot, reports said.

He was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

Media caption,

Police say South African footballer Senzo Meyiwa was shot during a robbery whilst visiting friends

Police said on Sunday evening that they were breaking protocol to announce his death so soon after the shooting.

Relatives and fans gathered outside the hospital and Ms Khumalo's house to grieve over Meyiwa's death.

National shock - by Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

The whole nation is mourning the passing of a national football hero. Radio and TV chat shows are clogged with callers expressing their shock and dismay. And I must declare personal interest right from the onset - Orlando Pirates has been my team since growing up in Soweto.

His shooting brings into sharp focus the wider issues of gun crime in South Africa, particularly so soon after the marathon trial of athlete Oscar Pistorius, who says he shot dead his girlfriend by mistake, fearing there was an intruder in the house.

South Africa is asking itself deep questions about the cancer of violence that has killed some of its best talent. It was seven years ago this month that renowned reggae singer Lucky Dube was killed in a robbery. The question in many people's minds is: granted there is crime all over the world, but why is it that here in South Africa violence is so gratuitous?

South African President Jacob Zuma said in a statement on Monday: "We mourn the death of this young footballer and team leader whose life has been taken away at the prime of his career. Words cannot express the nation's shock at this loss."

Image source, Reuters
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Members of Kelly Khumalo's family arrived at her home on Monday morning
Image source, Getty Images
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Senzo Meyiwa began playing for Orlando Pirates in 2005 and went on to captain the national team

Ephraim Mashaba, head coach of South Africa's football team wept during a news conference called on Monday in response to the footballer's death.

'Senzo is everything'

"Senzo was a very kind person," he said. "I have never seen Senzo being sad or angry in the camp."

Urging Meyiwa's team-mates and colleagues to stay strong, he added: "Senzo is a team player, Senzo is everything."

His words were echoed by South Africa midfielder Dean Furman who told the BBC that Meyiwa was "just the nicest guy you could wish to meet".

Image source, EPA
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President Jacob Zuma (here with Meyiwa in 2013) said words could not express the nation's shock
Image source, AP
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Investigators worked outside the scene of the shooting in the Vosloorus township on Monday

"It's tragic, so sad", Furman added. "He has a young family so there's more to it than losing a footballer. Someone's lost a dad."

Meyiwa's agent Mike Makaab called the death "a huge shock", saying that Meyiwa was "really a hero in everybody's eyes".

Team mate Tsepo Masilela was among many voicing their shock at the news on social media.

"How do you kill someone for a cellphone?" he tweeted, saying the whole country was at a loss.

"When does it STOP South Africa?" wrote Darren Keet, the national team's number two goalkeeper.

Gun violence

Senzo Meyiwa started playing for Orlando Pirates, based in the Parktown district of Johannesburg, in 2005.

Media caption,

A reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of Senzo Meyiwa's killer

"This is a sad loss whichever way you look at it, to Senzo's family, his extended family, Orlando Pirates and to the nation,'' said Pirates' chairman Irvin Khoza.

His death is the second blow to South Africa's sporting community in three days. On Friday, former 800m world champion runner Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was killed in a car crash.

The shooting has once again highlighted South Africa's high crime rates and problems with gun violence.

Between April 2013 and March 2014, more than 17,000 people were murdered in South Africa, an increase of about 5% since the previous year, according to police figures.