When organisers of the successful Copa Coca-Cola football tournament held a function in Harare to honour journalists who have helped shape the tourney in 30 years of its existence, the touching moment was provided by the two awards handed posthumously to two Zimpapers scribes who died along the way.
Ironically, both Roy Matiki and Paul Mundandi died in November, with the former succumbing to a brain tumour at his Harare home in 2012 at the age of 35 while the later succumbed to suspected epileptic seizure in Zvishavane last year at the age of 47.
The two late journalists’ family members were on hand to accept the awards with the sponsors describing the duo as part of the successful story of the tournament which has seen this tourney, which originated in Zimbabwe in 1989, being adopted by scores of countries around the world.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the tournament and the organisers have promised a bigger and better tournament for this special edition.
Sports journalists who gathered in Harare for the function on Wednesday held a minute of silence to remember their colleagues who could not be with them, but had also contributed significantly to the success of this tournament
“It was a touching moment, just seeing all those guys, who are always in the trenches trying to scoop each other by getting the best story of the day, coming together to remember Roy and Paul,” The Herald Senior Sports Editor, Robson Sharuko, said.
“It was hard to hold back the tears and I have to thank the sponsors for remembering our late colleagues and for those who graced the occasion for the respect that they gave to that moment when time appeared to stand still.
“These two guys were great colleagues and they would go around the country, each and every year, to give us the sights and
sounds of this tournament and they had a passion to have the stories of these talented schoolboys and girls told.”
The footballers will also remember some of their colleagues, who were first given a platform to showcase their talents at the Copa Coca-Cola tournament, who are no longer with them today.
One of those who passed away was former Dream Team midfield Benjamin “Makanaky” Nkonjera who was one of the stars of the Mzilikazi High School team which won the first tournament at Gifford High School in 1989 after a 3-0 win over Manunure of Kwekwe
Nkonjera scored one of the goals in that match while Peter Ndlovu, his best friend and a teammate in the Dream Team, was also on target.
However, amid the celebrations that day, when Mzilikazi triumphed over Manunure, no one knew that just 10 years down the line, Nkonjera would be no more.
He died in Bulawayo on March 13, 1999, but not before he had left a huge impression on those who saw him star in midfield, especially for the Dream Team.
“Although he (late Warriors coach, Reinhard Fabisch) was proud and fond of all his players, the one he loved most was Benjamin Nkonjera, both as a footballer and a person,” the German coach’s wife Chawada, told this newspaper.
“When he first saw him as a young player he knew straight way he was a great talent and wanted him on his side.”
Nkonjera died at a time when Ndlovu had moved from Coventry City to Birmingham City after being signed by Trevor Francis for a fee of £1,6 million.