By Collin Matiza and Takudzwa Chitsiga
The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee have described the late local sports doyen Moosa Ismail as a very influential mentor and leader who has left a strong legacy behind.
Affectionately known as “Uncle” in the local sports fraternity, Ismail, who was among the first Asians to venture into football administration in this country in the pre-Independence era, died “of natural causes” at the age of 87 on February 1 in Pretoria, South Africa, and was buried there the next day, according to his son Reyhaan.
Ismail is survived by twin sons — Reyhaan and Ferhaan — a daughter and several grandchildren.
His son Reyhaan, a former senior national men’s field hockey team star, said his father was influential in promoting sport in this country as he was a member of the first non-racial ZOC.
“He was a very good man who treasured sports in Zimbabwe and he worked hard. He died a natural death in Pretoria and was buried there.
“In fact, apart from being a versatile sports administrator, my dad was also into politics as he was very close to the current President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa when he (Ismail) was still working in the Government.
“I also remember the late national hero Edgar Tekere telling him that ‘We liberated this country with the gun and you liberated sport on the sporting field by fighting the white men’. So, they (the Government) also acknowledged him as revolutionalist who also played a crucial role during the liberation struggle of this country in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The other thing is that he was also involved in returning normalcy at (local football giants) Dynamos during their in-house fighting which involved Morrison Sifelani and Jockoniah Nhekairo. So, he was a man who really cared about other people and was loved by everyone,” Reyhaan said yesterday.
Apart from being a founding member of ZIFA, Ismail served as a board member of ZOC for more than 20 years from 1981 to 2005. The veteran sports administrator was also the brains behind the formation of several national sport associations and clubs in Zimbabwe.
And yesterday Admire Masenda, the ZOC president, paid glowing tribute to Ismail whom he described as an administrator par excellence who advocated for his rise to his current position as the head of the local Olympic sports body.
“He was a great man who did a lot for local sports in general. He was a leader who did everything wholeheartedly and fought for the liberation of local sports.
“When I joined ZOC in 1998 he was a board member and we worked together for several years and he was influential in the formation of ZIFA where he ended up being a life member.
“He lobbied for me to be the president (of ZOC) as he advocated for young people and that’s how I rose at ZOC. He pushed so hard that we grew in sports and even after he left ZOC we would still get advice from him,” Masenda said.
Ismail was also behind the staging of the Olympic Day Fun Run for several years.
In fact, his passion at ZOC was organising the staging of the Olympic Day Fun Run which he helped to become one of the major events on the ZOC calendar as he took the race to the underprivileged people of Harare’s high-density suburbs of Mbare and Glen View (High Glen) as well as Chitungwiza.
But Ismail is mostly remembered as a football person after he spent quite a number of years serving as the ZIFA fixtures secretary in the post-Independence era.
He began his romance with local football way back in 1962 and was involved in the formation of the then Super League in the 1970s.
Ismail was to become an executive official of the now-defunct Premiership side Arcadia United during its heydays in the 1970s. He was, infact, treasurer at Arcadia United for three years and later served in the then Rhodesia National Football League as a disciplinary committee secretary. In an interview with The Herald in May 2005 soon after he had announced his retirement as a sports administrator, Ismail said he was one of the few people who were instrumental in forming an amalgamated league in the 1960s.
He remembered that there was (the late) John Madzima, Gerry Rouftopolous and Ishmael Adam when they joined the African, Asian and Coloured leagues into one.
In 1981, a year after Zimbabwe had attained its Independence, Ismail was appointed a member of the first non-racial Zimbabwe Olympic Committee — a position he held until May 2005, making him one of the longest serving members of the organisation.
A likeable character who spent more than 40 years of his life administering different sports, Ismail also served as a member of ZIFA from 1983 to 1992 and he said as a football administrator, he enjoyed working with the late pair of John Madzima and Nelson “Jumbo Jet” Chirwa.
Ismail served as a fixtures secretary for seven years during the Rhodesia National Football League which was headed by Madzima, who is arguably the best football administrator to emerge from this country. In February 1983, Ismail was again appointed fixtures secretary of ZIFA which was then under the reins of former soccer referee Chirwa.
An all-rounder during his school and college days in England, Ismail played rugby, cricket, table tennis, football and boxing.