By Eddie Chikamhi
FORMER Warriors team manager Sharif Mussa says the late Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda was a huge inspiration during their days with the Zimbabwe senior national football team.
Mussa, who was assistant team manager to Sibanda when the Warriors qualified for the 2006 AFCON in 2006, said the late administrator made a huge impact on his career.
Sibanda died in Bulawayo earlier this week after battling diabetes. He was 63 years old.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened by death of a friend, colleague, mentor and brother Ernest Sibanda on August 10, 2021.
“My heartfelt condolences go to his family, to the Highlanders family and the Zimbabwe football family at large. I must say, that of all the people I worked with during my long association with local football and our beloved Warriors, Maphepha is the man I was closest to.
“We enjoyed a great working relationship and I would always call on his experience and wise counsel in dealing with football matters. Maphepha was a humble man yet a larger than life character.
“Having played for both Highlanders and CAPS United, I believe it made Maphepha easily fit on any divide of the game. But I knew him more as an administrator par excellence. “He was chairman of Highlanders and won numerous silverware. It was in the Warriors that we struck a great understanding, working closely as manager and assistant manager as our national team qualified for the 2006 Africa Cup Nations in Egypt,” said Mussa.
When Sibanda left, he passed on the baton stick to Mussa, who went on to travel far and wide with the Warriors for a variety of international assignments ranging from AFCON, CHAN, COSAFA Cup and World Cup qualifiers, in a period spanning 13 years.
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Mussa tendered his resignation in 2017 to concentrate on his family and business. He has since taken his leadership skills upwards after he was recruited by CAF as general coordinator for continental football events.
He said he had remained close friends with his predecessor, Sibanda, despite both having left the Warriors set up.
“We worked closely with coach Charles Mhlauri and his assistants David Mandigora and Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo (May their souls continue to rest in peace).
“In all his assignments, Ernest was a cheerful football technocrat who was also a great motivator. Soft spoken and yet very tough when maintaining order in the national team camp.
“Despite both of us having left the Warriors set up, we continued to interact and even though I was aware that he was not well, he had been assuring me that he was getting better and we had hoped for the best.
“He will be sorely missed by the family of football in Zimbabwe and we will always cherish the legacy he has left,” said Mussa.
Sibanda is set to be buried on Saturday at the Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo.