JEANNOT Witakenge, one of the best midfielders local football has ever seen, has died at the age of 50 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Rayon Sports legend, who also briefly played for rivals APR, passed on Friday night after losing his battle with cancer.
Former @rayon_sports hardworking midfielder Jeannot Witakenge dies from cancer.— Official Rayon Sports (@rayon_sports) April 25, 2020
Our hearts go out to you in your time of sorrow. No words can describe how sorry we are for your loss LEGEND #JeannotWitakenge#Gikundiro?? pic.twitter.com/zGoAVUaFXh
Witakenge first signed for Rayon in the early 1990s but shortly left – due to the 1994 Genocide against the Tusi – to join Burundian side Inter Stars and would resign for the Blues in 1996.
During his second stint, the DR Congo-born star was regarded by far as the best midfielder of his generation as he helped Rayon to the 1997 and 1998 league titles, the 1998 Peace Cup as well as the club’s only Cecafa Kagame Cup in 1998.
In the tribute, former APR teammate Jimmy Mulisa, via his Twitter, compared now-late Witakenge to the likes of Spain and Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez, Dutch Clarence Seedorf and former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes.
Rest In Peace Legend ?Best Midfielder of all generations in Rwanda..I compare him to the likes of Xavi,Seedorf and Scholes. pic.twitter.com/nFESVg5OP2— Jimmy mulisa (@jimbomulisa) April 25, 2020
After his retirement in the early 2010s, Witakenge immediately ventured into his coaching career where he started as a youth coach for DR Congo outfit St-Éloi Lupopo of Lubumbashi.
He also spent a short spell at Rayon Sport as assistant coach.
The shocking news of Witakenge's passing prompted eulogies and tributes from former teams, teammates and fans alike.
RIP Witakenge Jeannot Elias. The best midfielder in Rwandan football I' ve ever known. pic.twitter.com/IcUjSCpNah— kayihura honoré (@kayihura_honore) April 25, 2020
Gutted! Jeannot Witakenge was the diminutive playmaker who made me fall in love with @rayon_sports at first sight. The heartbeat of that famous Rayon side that won Cecafa title. Shame he didn't receive as much as he gave to football. Thank u for the memories, legend! #RIPJeannot https://t.co/z5Xfk0RJHo— James A. Munyaneza (@JMunyaneza) April 25, 2020