Innocent Kurira, Sports Reporter
“NO, I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.”
This line from Ben E King’s classic is how those that attended an appreciation bash in his honour will remember Ndumiso Emmanuel Gumede, who passed away at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo yesterday afternoon.
In fact, the last memory of the football colossus is the viral Tik Tok video of Gumede belting out this Ben E King classic at his appreciation function on Unity Day.
Just as the lyrics say, he wasn’t afraid and even in sickness Gumede refused to go down without a fight.
He is arguably the most revered and influential football administrator this country has ever produced and the driving force behind all Highlanders’ assets.
His footballing genius and love of the world’s most beautiful game spread nationally and was a calming influence at Zifa during his tenures as secretary-general, vice-president and chief executive officer between 1980 and 2014.
It’s hard to fathom that exactly seven days before his death, Gumede was at his jovial self as the Highlanders’ family celebrated his immense contribution to the club.
Overwhelmed by emotions, Gumede chose to express his gratitude in song, unbeknown to most that he was saying his final goodbyes.
For most of the afternoon of December 22, Gumede sat on his chair as family and friends took turns to give speeches hailing him for his immense contribution to football in the country.
Mid-way through the function, Gumede stood up and held a brief meeting with the band that was serenading well-wishers with music on the day.
They held a brief rehearsal, but the final product will remain etched in the minds of all the guests.
“When the night, has come and the land is dark and the moon, is the only light we’ll see, no I won’t, be afraid. No I won’t, be afraid, just as long, as you stand, stand by me,” Gumede sang, as he acknowledged those who participated in the initiative to celebrate his contribution to Bosso and football in general.
The heartfelt rendition added an extra meaning to the iconic hit.
Football fans have taken to social media and made it an anthemic tribute to his immeasurable input to football administration in Zimbabwe.
His message was clear to the Highlanders family: “Thank you for standing by me.”
To Highlanders’ board chairman Luke Mnkandla, former chairman Kenneth Mhlophe, Bulawayo Mayor Solomon Mguni and his deputy Mlandu Ncube, guest of honour and long-time club benefactor Tshinga Dube, Bosso legends Madinda Ndlovu and Netsai Moyo, among others, former Warriors’ skipper Benjani Mwaruwari and defender
Harlington Shereni as well as other guests, Gumede’s choice of song and performance probably makes sense now.
He was entertaining the guests, while at the same time bidding farewell to him, as they celebrated him while he was still alive.
Looking back, organisers of the celebration managed to achieve their plan just seven days before his demise.
Gumede’s name is imprinted on just about everything football about Zimbabwe since independence.
He helped bust the Asiagate scandal and was also a member of the Caf appeals committee.
Highlanders’ principal sponsors Sakunda Holdings are in the process of renovating the club’s offices to a state-of-the-art modern facility in honour of Gumede’s contribution to the club and Zimbabwean football.
Gumede was a man who always worked with a big smile and he will now smile fearlessly to the grave, knowing that most football fans stood by him. – @innocentskizoe
Article Source: The Chronicle