By Eddie Chikamhi
Zimbabwe football legend Freddy Mkwesha ran his final lap yesterday when scores of people gathered at Rufaro to commemorate the life of an iconic figure in the national game who died earlier this week and will be buried in Goromonzi today.
Mkwesha succumbed to a long battle with diabetes at Harare Central Hospital on Tuesday morning, but just as he, for the better of his life “Karamba’’ as Freddy had become affectionately known, united the domestic football family in death too.
The coffin bearing the legendary former striker’s body was paraded at the traditional home of football — Rufaro — where scores of people joined Mkwesha’s family and friends with the current class of Dynamos players being the pallbearers.
Earlier at his Glen Norah home, Dynamos and CAPS United yesteryear players such as Biggie Zuze, Gift Muzadzi, Anthony Kambani, Stanford “Stix’’ Mtizwa and Dumisani Mpofu took turns to become pallbearers.
A church service was held in the morning yesterday before the body was taken to Rufaro where football people from all corners paid tribute to the former Zimbabwe international.
Dynamos president Kenny Mubaiwa, ZIFA vice president Omega Sibanda and Premier Soccer League chairman Twine Phiri delivered speeches in which they chronicled Mkwesha’s contributions to football.
Many people who attended the ceremony described him as an inspiration and fatherly figure.
The CAPS United family yesterday joined hands with their Premiership rivals Dynamos in mourning Mkwesha, who at one time worked at the Green Machine as coach, team manager and in the development structures.
The club’s vice president, Phiri, explained how Mkwesha seamlessly fitted into their structures and met with success despite his strong Dynamos DNA.
Mkwesha was convinced by former CAPS United chairman Julius Chifokoyo to return home in 1984 and take up a coaching job at the Harare giants after spending 18 years in Europe.
Chifokoyo was among the mourners at the church service.
“He joined CAPS United as coach and also served as team manager and then in the juniors. We won cups with him and his contributions will forever be etched in our hearts.
“One thing about him is that you couldn’t feel that he came from a rival side. We took him as a CAPS United person. He was a great unifier,” said Phiri.
Ex-CAPS United players like Alois Bunjira, Mtizwa and Mpofu also paid their tribute to Mkwesha.
Former Warriors defender Mpofu said Mkwesha was an inspiration.
“He is the person who brought me to CAPS United when I left Blackpool. He was more than a coach, he was a father figure. The way he talked to you as a player would inspire confidence.
“He is someone who was brave and did his best to rub the confidence to the players. We cannot find anyone who is like him,” said Mpofu.
Bunjira, who is now board member for marketing at Makepekepe, was charmed by Mkwesha’s leadership style. He said Mkwesha was passionate about development.
“The first time I met Mudhara ‘Fathers Karamba’ was when I was a 15-year-old in Zvishavane. We had gone there for a provincial Under-17 tournament where I was playing for Mashonaland East.
“Mkwesha was part of the Under 17 national technical team which was selecting players for the Under 17 national team at the tournament.
“After the tournament, I was among the 50 players chosen to go into camp at Manyame Airbase. Mudhara Freddy was introduced to us at the camp as our Under-17 team manager. We spent about three months in and out of the camp preparing for a game against Zambia. After we were knocked out by Zambia, I never had any other encounter with him, save for the time I got promoted to the Darryn T first team and I would see him on the CAPS United bench when we played them.
“As fate would have it, I joined CAPS United in 1996 and worked with Mudhara Mkwesha on a daily basis as our team manager. I vividly remember him each time we massacred a team and he would come into the changing room with a big smile and his famous words . . . ‘Ah Karamba, ndorinonzi bhoraka iri ramatamba’ . . . Bhonzo (Silver Chigwenje) would then always reply “MaEnvelop mudhara paMonday apo”, said Bunjira.
“Stix” Mtizwa only got to work with Mkwesha for a short period before he shifted base to join Black Rhinos. Mtizwa, however, said Mkwesha impacted heavily on many a player’s careers in Zimbabwe.
“It’s sad that this generation of footballers is almost wiped away now. So we have been left poorer in terms of direction and ideas.
“One major thing that he did for us was to challenge us that it was possible to play in a big European league. He was the first to do that and we all wanted to follow in his footsteps. Some managed to achieve to go, but some of us couldn’t, but to this generation, his legacy still lives on,” said Mtizwa.
Northern Region Division One chairperson Willard Manyengavana said Mkwesha always brought people together. Manyengavana remembered the encounters he had with Mkwesha during his time as the Makepekepe supporters’ club secretary-general.
“What impressed me most was his personality. He was one guy who would talk to anyone. You would meet him in the street and discuss football and CAPS United business.
“He was somebody who was really accommodative of supporters and anyone who loved football. So in as far as I’m concerned we have lost a father in football,” said Manyengavana.The Herald