June 21, 2021

I can still see him smiling at me now, a cold beer in his hand, his handsome features lighting up the occasion

8 min read

The Herald

Robson Sharuko on Saturday

THERE are some people born just to love life and live it to the full — they carry no grudges, take each day as it comes and do everything with a beautiful smile.

You meet them today, and they are just the same as when you last bumped into them three years ago — jovial, funny, smiling and full of life.

Whatever life throws at them, they take it on the chin, accept their fate, don’t curse anyone for that and simply soldier on.

If tomorrow turns out worse, tough luck, if it turns out better, they go on their knees and thank God.

They never seem to hate anyone, or hurt anyone, they are seemingly born to love, and to be loved, to entertain, and to be entertained, to just brighten up the world.

You meet them and it’s always like they were the ones Brad Kane and Lea Solanga had in mind when they sang “A Whole New World,” the duo’s timeless hit song.

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling, soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless sky. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view, no one to tell us no, or where to go or to say we only dreaming.”

Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo was one of those people — whether by the way he played his football, the way he interacted with others or just the way he lived his life.

A guy you could count on to bring happiness into the lives of others and always left such a huge impression on those he met.

Mawiiiiii, such a character on the field, the majesty of his movement, the grace of his dribbles, the beauty of everything he did.

Even just a mere a gallop, because of the way he did it, would bring the house down at Barbourfields.

And, of course, such a great character off the field too.

A beer in his hand, his love for life, seemingly always laughing and always smiling, the perfect picture of a human being who can’t even hurt a fly.

Too bad, he never made it to 50, falling a year short of his half century in August four years ago, but leaving us with memories that will last a lifetime.

Because it was Willard, I had to attend his funeral in Bulawayo, failure to do that would have been an abomination, he would never forgive me. And I couldn’t risk that because I called him my friend.

Moses Chunga also came, was even honoured with a platform to address the mourners and, as much as he could that day, used bits and pieces of Ndebele to say goodbye to a great Warrior.

And, more importantly, a very good man.


Hamid Dhana, who finally lost his battle against cancer last Sunday, was another very good man, and just like Willard, as good a footballer as they will ever come on the domestic front.

Just like Willard, he played in midfield.

A cultured left foot was his main weapon, an excellent football brain was his main asset, he played with the swagger of a thoroughbred athlete for whom everything came naturally.

Dhana didn’t need to burden himself with thinking about what he would do next once the ball came to him.

For, something in his computerised football brain just sparked into life and transformed him into a beautiful gladiator for his team, or destructive demon for the opponents.

He didn’t need to worry about what his marker would be thinking about, to try and stop him. For, something in his computer box was programmed to deal with such hurdles, to eliminate them without pushing himself to the limits.

And it was always done with some grace, as if he was some kind of a ballerina dancer on a football field, the parade of his talent so beautiful, the majesty of his movements so intoxicating.

Mids played during a golden era of some great midfielders — Stix Mutizwa, Joel Shambo, Kenneth Jere, David Mwanza, Archieford Chimutanda, Joseph Zulu — and that his talent shone in such illustrious company was confirmation of how good he was.

Today, I watch Marvelous Nakamba playing for Aston Villa in the English Premiership, with that cultured left foot, wooing fans with his excellent performances and winning man-of-the-match awards.

And, the more I watch him, as excellent as he is, the more I wonder where someone like Dhana would have ended up, if the doors to European football, back in the days, were as open to our players as is the case now?

It’s something that troubles me a lot because, unfortunately, when the history of Zimbabwean football is recorded, it will largely be shaped by where our stars ended up playing.

Those who made the grade at such leagues like the English Premiership getting pride of place, while no one will immortalise the likes of Dhana and Nyaro Mumba simply because their adventure was on the domestic front.

It pains me a lot because such a Hall of Fame would not be a true reflection of the greatness of the football players who emerged in this country, but an expression of where they ended up playing.

It’s like trying to suggest that Stix Mutizwa, William Sibanda, Shacky Tauro, Victor Mapanada, weren’t as good as those who ended up playing in Europe.

When the simple reality is that these guys were just something else and far better than many of our boys who have ended up at European clubs.

Take away the King himself, Peter Ndlovu, and Moses Chunga from the conversation, and I find it hard to believe that an argument can be sustained, among our boys, that simply because they played in Europe, it means they were better.

Liberty Masunda played in Turkey, but does that mean he was better than Onias Musona, Charles Chirwa, Kembo Chunga, Tobias Mudyambanje, and the answer is a big NO.

Before his death, Sam Marisa, who was my boss on this sports desk at the turn of the millennium, told me something I will never forget:

I’m afraid, one day, the kids will ask, ‘who was Moses Chunga, who was Peter Ndlovu?’ and you can’t blame them,” he said.

“We are letting their legacy to be forgotten in our obsession with stars from European countries and South America.

“I might not be around then, but it’s your responsibility to ensure things will not come to that because, after all, this is a newspaper of record.’’

This week, with our comprehensive coverage of Dhana, in death as we did in life, I felt, in a small way, we ensured the legacy of one of the finest footballers to grace our domestic fields would not be forgotten.

And, for me, that’s what this newspaper represents, just like a museum, and the least this country expects it to deliver.

To celebrate the history of this game, represented by such greats like Dhana, its present as represented by such players like Nakamba, Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona and also take a look into the future as represented by the likes of Kelvin Ndebele.


But, for me, what mattered more than just being an exceptional footballer was that Dhana was a very good man.

A jolly good fellow, the guy next door, never portraying himself as a superstar, but just the ordinary fellow you come across in a bar, a church or in the kombi.

He didn’t have the arrogance we now see in some of these so-called Prima Donna stars of today, who if the brutal truth be told, would not have even made the substitutes’ bench of the reserve sides of the teams Mids played for, either at Dynamos or at Black Rhinos.

Today, we all cry, for the spark that our Warriors lack, the absence of that creative midfielder and I wonder if we would all be in such a crisis if Mids, with his superb ball carrying skills and ability to split the defence, had played for our national team now?

Somehow, as if it was written in the stars, Dhana had to die on a Sunday.

The very day, every week, where he used to cast a spell around us, the day we usually met, after his retirement, to discuss the game, the challenges it was facing, and other related stuff.

Not least, of course, his beloved Liverpool, the team that just couldn’t win the English Premiership title since his retirement from the game.

And, most of the time, on those Sundays, he always had his beer in his hand, his love for life clearly apparent, and he never stopped smiling, stopped laughing.

They said Mids was the ultimate all-rounder, who excelled in a number of sports during his days at Morgan High School, and I’m not sure if that also meant he showed a lot of promise in golf.

For, on Sunday night, as we digested the tragedy that Mids was gone, it was Tiger Woods’ game which provided us with the classic image, and story, of sport and life.

Just what we had been celebrating that day as we recalled the man with the Midas Touch.

When 24-year-old golfer Cameron Champ won the Safeway Open at Silverado on Sunday, his father Jeff rushed onto the course at the 18th hole with his mobile phone on, embraced his triumphant son and both men started crying uncontrollably.

It then emerged that, the man on the other end of the line, was Cameron’s ailing 78-year-old grandfather, Mack, who has just a few weeks to live as he battles the final stages of cancer. Black players don’t usually win on the PGA Tour and that’s why Cameron’s success is creating waves.

Apparently, Pops, as his ailing grandfather is known among his family, watched his grandson’s final round on television from his bed in hospice care back in Sacramento.

The old man, who hadn’t eaten anything other than ice pop, a water or milk-based frozen snack on a stick like an ice cream in the past three weeks, somehow, summoned whatever remained of his energy to watch the final round.

And, Cameron won.

“For this to happen before these last days that we’re going to have with my father here, it’s the Man upstairs,” his sobbing father Jeff told the PGA Tour.

He could have been talking about Mids too, because, for us to have been blessed by both his company and brilliance, we just have to thank the Man upstairs.

I can see Mids smiling at me now, just like in the old days, a cold beer in his hand, wearing his trademark Liverpool jersey, his handsome features lighting the occasion.

Of course, I can’t hear his words anymore, but I can assure you he’s saying it best when he’s saying nothing at all.

Without him, as Brad Kane and Lea Solange sang in their hot song, it feels like a whole new world.

To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole Ole!

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You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and interact with me every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the ZBC television magazine programme, “Game Plan”

Source: Herald

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