ONE of Zimbabwe’s iconic footballers, former Highlanders and Warriors midfielder Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo has died.
Mashinkila-Khumalo, who was 49 at the time of his death, succumbed to heart failure on Saturday evening at United Bulawayo Hospitals where he was admitted since Wednesday.
His mother, Juliana Mashinkila-Khumalo, confirmed her son’s death yesterday morning.
“He breathed his last yesterday at 10pm at UBH. He had a heart problem. He also had diabetes. We are at loss of words at his passing away,” Juliana said before she spoke of her son’s love for football and Highlanders in particular.
“Willard was a free-spirited person who always cracked jokes. He loved everyone and was so much in love with Highlanders. His whole life was football which was a family thing as his late father (Danny) played for Northern Rhodesia Wanderers where his grandfather Ballast Mashinkila was president. It was a family of footballers,” she added.
Former Highlanders player, chairman and manager Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda, who has been requested by the family to lead funeral arrangements for the football legend, spoke highly of Mashinkila-Khumalo.
“I last saw him on Friday before I travelled to Gweru for the Highlanders and WhaWha match, but the family phoned me yesterday (Saturday) to say things were not well with Willard and I had to travel back,” Sibanda said.
“He played for the Highlanders juniors from the 1980s with the likes of Madinda Ndlovu, Netsai Moyo, Mercedes Sibanda, Sydney Zimunya and Abraham Mbambo. They were a force to reckon with. When Willard graduated to the senior team, I went to Harare to play for Caps United and he would tease me to say I fled Highlanders because he played better than me.”
Mashinkila-Khumalo, popularly known as Nduna in his hey days, won several trophies for Highlanders playing alongside the likes of David Phiri, Titus Majola, Fanuel “Ncane” Ncube and Dumisani Ngulube, among others.
“We cannot talk about Highlanders alone because he was also a member of the national team. He made his name with the national team, the Dream Team, coached by (the late) Reinhard Fabisch and they were the only squad that almost made it to the World Cup finals. He was a marvel to watch then,” Sibanda added.
In the Dream Team, that almost went to the 1994 World Cup finals played in the United States, he joined forces with players like Bruce Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu, Adam Ndlovu, Agent Sawu, Norman Mapeza, Benjamin Nkonjera and Francis Shonhai.
After hanging up his boots, Khumalo started a coaching career. Among the highlights was winning the Madison Trophy with Lancashire Steel, which he also briefly played for.
He also coached Mwana Africa and took them to the 2007 Caf Confederation Cup.
At one time, he was assistant coach to Charles Mhlauri in the senior national team.
He coached Highlanders and also had stints in Botswana before he came back to the country to preside over Zimbabwe Saints when Chikwata bounced back to top-flight football in 2011 before he was appointed Highlanders welfare manager in 2013, taking over from Amin Soma-Phiri.
He was replaced at the beginning of this year by Netsai Moyo.
Mashinkila-Khumalo was born in Bulawayo on June 11 1966 and he was the first in a family of seven — three boys and four girls.
He went to Mzilikazi Primary School between 1972 and 1978 and proceeded to Northlea High School for his secondary education.
He is survived by wife Nozipho and three children.
Mourners are gathered at Number S22 in Mzilikazi.
Funeral arrangements are likely to be announced today.=Newsday