THIS past week was a black week for the local football fraternity following the death of two former prominent footballers — Anthony Kambani and Linus Mushonga — due to suspected Covid-19.
Kambani (57), a former midfield dynamo of CAPS United and Arcadia United, died on Wednesday night at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital after a short illness and barely 48 hours later, news filtered in that Mushonga (54), the ex-goalkeeper of the now-defunct Northern Region Division One side ZRP Tomlinson, had also passed away in Harare.
They were both laid to rest on Saturday.
According to Mushonga’s nephew, Simon Simon, the ex-ZRP Tomlinson goalkeeper died on Friday morning at Park Town Hospital in Harare and was buried at Chishawasha Cemetery, just outside Harare, on Saturday.
“My uncle died on Friday morning at Park Town Hospital at around 7am. Although he was diabetic, his death, I suspect, was mainly caused by the Covid-19 virus,” Simon told The Herald yesterday.
Mushonga, who was nicknamed “Ninja”, was part of the ZRP Tomlinson side that played under the late shrewd coach Stanley Marunza in the late 1980s up to the mid-1990s.
He played in the same police team with his twin brother Robert, who is now based in the UK.
At ZRP Tomlinson, Mushonga rubbed shoulders with the likes of Claudius “Hokoyo” Zviripayi and Boniface “Achimwene” Kabwe who both later left the then Tomlinson Depot-based side to join Premiership giants Dynamos in 1990 after they were scouted by DeMbare’s former goalkeeper Labani Kandi.
ZRP Tomlinson was the home of talented players such as Tommy Kanjanda, Thomas Mukahanana, Shepherd Chirambadare, George “ZUPCO” Mangwandi, Zivanayi Makaya and Alex “Chola” Chasweka.
Chasweka, who is now based in Swansea, Wales, later went on to play for the now-defunct Premiership side Black Aces while Mangwandi was snatched by CAPS United.
And it was during their days at ZRP Tomlinson that the police side came close to being promoted into the Premiership twice as they also enjoyed the support of the late former President of Zimbabwe, Canaan Banana, in the late 1980s.
During that spell, Mushonga was ZRP Tomlinson’s first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Chris Ndonya and he used to command his goal area well, although he was a temperamental character, according to his former team-mate Kabwe.
“I only played for ZRP Tomlinson for one season in 1989 and the team was full of promising young players, including Linus Mushonga who was our first-choice goalkeeper.
“He was a no-nonsense man who hated to lose and he used to clash with referees whenever he thought the match officials were biased against us or had given controversial decisions against ZRP Tomlinson.
“But he was generally a good man and it’s so sad to hear that he passed on at such a young age.
“My deepest sympathies to his wife and the Mushonga family,” Kabwe said yesterday.
Mushonga’s close friend and former five-side-a-side football administrator, Nyasha Mazaiwana, said he was shocked and saddened by the ex-goalkeeper’s untimely death.
“I’m so sad and shocked about this terrible and tragic loss! Linus was just a nice man. We went to the same primary school — Shingirayi — in Mbare in the 1970s and that’s where he started his goalkeeping career as he was first the school’s junior side’s goalminder, I think at Grade Five, before becoming the senior team’s first-choice goalie in 1979.
“He moved on to Lord Malvern High School in Waterfalls in 1980 and continued playing football there before joining his father in running their family’s garage near Park Town Shopping Centre in Waterfalls.
“He was always looking for deep understanding, he was very honest with himself and with others, he had a critical mind and high expectations and at the same time he was always encouraging, supportive and caring.
“He was a role model to many young footballers who passed through Lord Malvern High School, and he combined this with his warm, friendly personality.
“It was an honour to have known him.
“My deepest condolences to his wife Shain and children. To the Mushonga family, may the good Lord God Almighty comfort you all during this difficult time!” Mazaiwana said.
After hanging up his gloves, Mushonga briefly ventured into politics but he later found God and turned into a preacher.