South Africa legend Neil Tovey taken off life support

Neil Tovey
Neil Tovey spent most of his playing career at the Kaizer Chiefs

Former South Africa captain Neil Tovey remains in a life threatening condition in a Durban hospital after he suffered a heart attack on Sunday but has been take off life-support equipment.

The 54-year-old South African Football Association technical director is the only white man to captain a Africa Cup of Nations-winning team.

He collapsed while training for a charity cycle race set for next month.

It is the second heart attack Tovey has suffered inside two years.

In February 2015 he suffered an attack while playing a game of squash with his wife near his home in Umhlanga, on the outskirt of Durban. But he made a speedy recovery.

Tovey was taken off the life support system by doctors on Monday morning but there was no immediate improvement on his condition, the South African Football Association spokesman Dominic Chimhavi said on Monday afternoon.

His elder brother Mark Tovey said doctors were still to ascertain if there was any damage suffered to his brain from a lack of oxygen, or damage to his lung and heart muscle.

"There is a slight improvement from [Monday's] situation but Neil remains in critical condition and I ask all South Africans to keep Neil in their daily prayers," he said.

"The doctors have been working round the clock and we hope for the best."

Social media was trending in South Africa on Monday as messages of support streamed in for Tovey, an iconic sports figure in the country who was captain of the South African side that lifted the Nations Cup on home soil in 1996.

Pictures of Tovey, holding the trophy aloft above his head, next to a beaming Nelson Mandela are still commonly seen in South African sports publications.

Tovey was the first captain of the country's national side when South Africa emerged from Apartheid-enforced isolation in 1992 - and also the first to reach the milestone of 50 caps.

But he lost his place in the team when Jomo Sono took over as coach from Clive Barker just six months before the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

Tovey's 511 league and cup appearances is the second highest tally by a player in the country's professional league. He won multiple titles with Durban City and Kaizer Chiefs and in between also played at AmaZulu.

After retiring he became a coach and had stints in charge of Hellenic, AmaZulu and Mamelodi Sundowns, where he won the South African league title in 2007.

Tovey was appointed Safa's technical director in June 2015.

The President of Safa, Dr Danny Jordaan, said he was shocked to learn the news and wished Tovey a speedy recovery.

"We trust he will pass through this challenge," Jordaan said.