Bloemfontein: Some 2,000 mourners turned up Wednesday at Hansie Cronje's old school in Bloemfontein for the funeral of the disgraced cricket star, who died Saturday in a cargo plane which slammed into a mountain in the far South of South Africa.
All was forgiven in the eulogies for the man who received a life ban from the United Cricket Board of South Africa in 2000 after admitting before a commission of inquiry that he had accepted $ 100,000 from Indian bookmakers and offered other players money to under-perform, though he said he had never thrown a match. "For the past two years I have wanted to tell the world, I've wanted to shout it out - although he made a mistake, he was still the same old Hansie. A kind, loving husband, a honourable man and a genuine friend," his widow, Bertha, told mourners at Grey College in the Central South African city. Other speakers described him as a generous, religious, competitive and loving. "He loved his country. He loved the green and gold (national cricket colours). He succeeded in his goal to get the fans victory. He took this country to the top," said former cricket convenor Peter Pollock, describing the former skipper as the nation's favourite son. He repented unreservedly when it emerged he had taken money from bookmakers and came out on top despite a "relentless media onslaught", Pollock said. Cronje's successor and current captain, Shaun Pollock, described him as an outstanding leader, cricketer and friend. "We want to thank you for being so much more than even that," he said, with many of Cronje's former teammates standing behind him on stage. "He touched each and every one of our lives." A tearful Pollock concluded his speech by saying: "We'll miss you." Pastor Dave Hooper said: "Hansie was loved by a nation. Was it because he was a cricketing hero? No, I believe otherwise. It was because Hansie had a passion for people." Schoolboys, many in tears, sang: "Hansie is our hero" before the hearse departed. Plans were made for Cronje's body to be cremated in a private ceremony.
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