BULAWAYO – Former Zimbabwe National Football team players Douglas Mloyi and Madinda Ndlovu were among some high profile ex-Highlanders FC stars who visited and cleared weeds at graves of their departed teammates Saturday.
It was the sixth year running that the players gathered in Bulawayo and visited cemeteries of their much loved former colleagues.
They were led by the Highlanders FC Former Players Association chairman Mloyi.
Their first port of call was at Dumisani Ngulube’s grave at West Park cemetery. It was a great relief as this time around the grave was found.
Two years ago, the grave could not be located as family and former teammates searched at the wrong end.
When notified about the visit this year, the family worked to establish the exact position of the grave, making Saturday’s work easier.
Ngulube played as a striker at Bosso in the 1980s and had the knack of scoring against Japhet Mparutsà of Black Rhinos. It was difficult at the time to beat the Shot Cat.
At West Park, the legends also cleared grass at the graves of a few others notably Barry Daka, Willard Khumalo, and Tymon Mabaleka as they are all buried in close proximity at the Lady Stanley section reserved for eminent citizens of Bulawayo.
The Bosso legends proceeded to Lenny Gwata’s grave.
Gwata played as a defender for Amahlolanyama and had a stint with rivals Dynamos.
The other graves that were visited at West Park on Saturday were those for former strikers Majuta Mpofu and Willie Luphahla.
The former players and relatives of the fallen heroes wound up by visiting Augustine Lunga’s at Athlone Cemetery.
At Lunga’s grave, master of ceremonies Netsayi Moyo spoke emotionally about the role the former club right back played in his career.
“Growing up, I wanted to be like Augustine Lunga. He was a good defender who dispossessed opponents without fouling them and initiated attacks from his own box a taboo in the early 1980s.
“Coincidentally I replaced him on the rightback position unexpectedly. He had challenges with getting time off at the NRZ where he worked so coaches decided to give me a chance,” said Moyo.
The party listened attentively and those old enough to have played or watched him were visibly moved by the tribute.
After a prayer and clearing of the grave, Chipo Lunga, the former defender’s widow challenged the club to extend the same gesture to other former players.
“I thank you for the love extended to us, please do the same for other players,” said Chipo.
Throughout the morning, Mloyi reminded his colleagues of the affable character he was during the good times in camp as he recalled some moments with his teammates or took a dig jokingly at some of the living legends.
Later, the players proceeded to the Highlanders FC Clubhouse in the central business district boundaries of Bulawayo where there was plenty to eat and drink.
Former club dribbling wizard Mandla Balanda commended the initiative. He said it got them together across generations.
“This is very good. I see so many generations here and I am getting to meet new players I never heard of in the club’s history,” said Balanda.
The Saturday event brought together some members of the 1986 tournament sweeping side such as Smart Moyo, Madinda, Sam Sibanda, Mloyi, Amin Soma-Phiri and Tanny Banda.
Mloyi’s 1970s mates Kenneth Dzowa, Themba Ncube and Kainot Luphahla were present.
Albert Magagula, the former chairman of the club of the 1960s era was also there. So were former top goal scorers Gift Lunga Snr and Zenzo Moyo, Gift Lunga Jnr, Noel Cele, Wonder Phiri, Colsen Mabeza, Itai Masawi, Jabu JB Sibanda, Johannes Tshuma and Mark Tundu.
Chairman Mloyi said the initiative which has been self-sustaining from their own contributions was beginning to attract corporates.
He challenged society and corporates to also support former players while they live but still welcomed help towards the welfare of widows and their children.