Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
SIMPLY put, the year 2021 has been particularly cruel to the Zimbabwean sporting fraternity, it has been devastating and many have been wishing that days could fast forward so that they could quickly cross over and start a brand-new year, which starts today.
An incredible 18 sports personalities could not make it to 2022 with Bulawayo losing six of its sporting sons, three of whom passed on in December, a few days before celebrating the new year. All of the Bulawayo sons were footballers, people who used to illuminate our three football stadia, White City, Luveve and the ceremonial home of football in the City of Kings, Barbourfields Stadium.
Former Zimbabwe netball team manager Ledwin Dondo is one high profile female sports personality who passed on this year. She died in May.
First to bid farewell from the Bulawayo sons was former Highlanders striker Mbuso Mandiopera who died while playing social soccer in Pumula suburb on June 6 at the age of 35. Mandiopera was featuring for his side Santos against a Cowdray Park side and as he chested the ball he knelt down while holding his chest, showing that he was in pain. Play stopped and when they attended to him, he was moving his hands like a person with fits. He died on the spot.
On August 9, a dark cloud engulfed Bulawayo when news filtered through that charismatic former Highlanders player, manager and chairman Ernest Maphepha Sibanda was no more. He succumbed to diabetes at Mater Dei Hospital. He was 63.
At the time of his death, Sibanda was a board member at Bulawayo City Football Club, having also previously served as chief of protocol at the now-defunct Bantu Rovers.
Zimbabwe Saints legend who also played for Mzilikazi Pirates in social soccer circles, Shaky Tondepi Sibanda was to breathe his last on November 14 after he collapsed and died at his Mzilikazi home at the age of 58. Nyathi was also part of the Zimbabwe squad that went to the 1980 Olympic Games in Russia.
While the nation was celebrating Unity Day on Wednesday, 22 December, former Eagles boss and retired judge, Justice Siwanda Kennedy Mbuso Sibanda died in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sibanda made a name for himself as an iron fisted football administrator who ran a successful football project known as Bulawayo Wanderers later to be known as Eagles.
On the same day that Sibanda died, Highlanders family lost one of their finest junior product, striker Nkululeko Chunky Dlodlo at the age of 50.
With memories still fresh after the deaths of Sibanda and Dlodlo, everything seemed like a dream on Wednesday December 29 at around 3pm when the larger than life character, a mortal who many believed was an immortal, Ndumiso Gumede heeded a higher calling after a short illness. Gumede, 76, died at Mpilo Central Hospital with his death sending a shockwave well beyond Bulawayo and indeed the Zimbabwean borders.
President Mnangagwa, in his condolence message to the Gumede family, described him as a sports administrator of distinction who will be remembered by many for transforming the popular game of football through his competent leadership and professional administration of the iconic Highlanders club.
“As it’s chairman and president, Highlanders Football Club scaled to higher heights, transforming into a household name it is to this day. Above all, his strong African roots turned professional sporting into a cultural carnival for which football fans miss him sorely.
Always genial and full of jokes, the late Gumede ensured integrity and professionalism in a game which is often mired in controversies of corrupt match fixing and related ills. Those of us wedded to the game will miss, keenly the yawning gap he leaves behind.
On behalf of Government, the football fraternity and on my own behalf, I wish to express my deepest condolences to the Gumede family on their saddest, unexpected loss. May they continue to draw inspiration from the late departed’s meritorious service to his country, his people, and to the sporting discipline of football. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace,” said the President as he spoke about Bulawayo’s finest export in terms of football administration.
Former Caps United and Zimbabwe Under-23 midfield maestro Buttler Masango, died in May this year after a short illness. He was now based in South Africa.
Dynamos fans were not spared from the devastating effects of death as in the early morning of June 12, it was announced that club and national team legend David “Yogi” Mandigora was no more. He was 64. Death robbed the nation of another icon, Misheck Chidzambwa, a man who led the Warriors to their inaugural Cosafa Cup triumph in 2000.
He won seven league tittles with Dynamos as a player. In the black June, coach Mick Poole died at the age of 85. Poole is best remembered as the first coach to lead the senior national team to their first major silverware when the country won the Cecafa Senior Challenge in 1985.
Just over a month later, on August 24, a football giant, never mind his small stature, George Mastermind Shaya departed from mother earth. He was 77.
The only local player to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year for an incredible five times had been unwell for some time but his death could just not be accepted. He had mesmerised opponents, making defenders look stupid while trying to dispossess him.
In the same month of August, another legend, Joe “Kode” Mugabe, who was the darling of Caps United fans died. He was based in the United Kingdom but his body was flown back home for burial.
It is not only football that lost its sons during the year 2021, rugby and tennis were victims as well with the muddy game losing its former player and president Frank Putteril in July after suffering a cardiac arrest. Putteril was 80.
Zvivanani Dzinomurumbi, another former Sables player, died in Masvingo on December 17 due to high blood pressure.
Sports personalities who passed on in 2021
Name Discipline Month
Frank Putteril Rugby July
Zvivanani Dzinomurumbi Rugby December
Paul Chingoka Tennis July
Buttler Masango Football May
Mbuso Mandiopera Football June
David Mandigora Football June
George Shaya Football August
Ernest Maphepha Sibanda Football August
Shacky Tondepi Nyathi Football November
Joe Mugabe Football August
Misheck Chidzambwa Football June
Ronald Mudimu Football November
Isaac Nhema Football December
Siwanda K Sibanda Football December
Nkululeko Chunky Dlodlo Football December
Ndumiso Gumede Football December
Ledwin Dondo Netball May
Mick Poole Football June
Article Source: The Chronicle