Thousands of people thronged Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo to bid farewell to soccer legend Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo who was buried on Thursday.
BY THANDIWE MOYO
The funeral proceedings started at 9am with burial being delayed as there were so many speakers lined up.
Speaker after speaker spoke highly of the former Highlanders and Warriors great with his humility emerging as a running theme.
Mashinkila-Khumalo died on Saturday night after a long illness.
Among the speakers were former players Rahman Gumbo, Madinda Ndlovu, Moses Chunga, Sydney Zimunya, Douglas Mloyi, Highlanders board secretary Jimmy Ncube, Paul Gundani and family members.
Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa, Senators Angeline Masuku and Matson Hlalo, Jabulani Nkomo and Member of Parliament for Mpopoma/Pelandaba constituency Joseph Tshuma were among the high-ranking politicians at the funeral.
Also present at the funeral service were former Warriors coach Misheck Chidzambwa, Premier Soccer League chairperson Twine Phiri and FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza.
His brother Brian Khumalo spoke highly of the man who was affectionately known as Nduna.
“Willard was not just an icon. He was a kind, warm doting father, uncle and partner. He took time to talk to people and even though he would go for some time without being paid, he still loved playing football,” he said.
Gumbo, who came from his base in Botswana, said they were celebrating Khumalo’s life.
“It is painful when I talk about him. I am his close friend and today I am celebrating his life. There was a time when I visited him sometime back. My wife, who is a pastor, prayed with him and I am happy he gave his life to Jesus. Even though he is no more, I know he is in peace,” he said.
Ndlovu, who is also based in Botswana, said he had known Khumalo from the time he carried former Highlanders goalkeeper, now goalkeepers’ coach, Peter Nkomo’s kit.
He said despite living with Nduna for some years in Germany, there was a time he could hardly recognise when he had fallen ill.
“Willard has rested. What he went through the past three years was hell. At some point, I came from Botswana and greeted Maphepha (Enerst Sibanda) who was sitting next to him, but I hardly recognised him. I could hardly see the man I spent years in Germany with,” he said.
Zimunya, who also played with Khumalo, said: “All my friends are gone. We were called the Bushwackers, me, Mercedes (Sibanda late) and Willard. We used to cause problems for the senior players.”
Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze said Khumalo had set a benchmark for young players and that he had been delivered to the football hall of fame.
Premier Soccer League (PSL) chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele called on players to be disciplined and respectful as Khumalo was an example among young players.
“He distinguished himself well and was an example to youngsters. He was a player, coach, idol, role model and rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest footballers in Africa.”
Langa said President Robert Mugabe sent his condolences to the Mashinkila-Khumalo family.
“We have lost one of us who was important and will remain important. Even though he was not well, he still went to Tsholotsho with us in June for a sports gala. You can refer to him as an ambassador. People here are following his works. Highlanders have lost someone who loved football,” he said.
Langa called on clubs and administrators to come up with funeral, medical aid and pension policies to assist players in times of need.
Masuku said players and former players should stop complaining about not being recognised after they leave the sport, but approach relevant authorities for assistance.
Other speakers talked about Khumalo’s childhood days when he started playing for Highlanders while he was still a student at Northlea High School.
The Highlanders supporters Harare chapter also held a memorial service for Mashinkila at Raylton Sports Club yesterday.
Khumalo leaves behind a wife and three children.