Zimbabwean football is in deep mourning following the death of a gentle giant Christopher Sambo, a man who rose from being chairman of a football team called Blackpool to become the Premier Soccer League (PSL) chief executive.
BY MICHAEL KARIATI
Sambo died at Parirenyatwa Hospital and will be laid to rest at Greendale Cemetery this morning.He left behind eight children and 10 grandchildren.
Condolence messages were pouring yesterday with the PSL describing him as a “passionate and dedicated football servant who gave a lot for the love of the game”.
“As PSL CEO, he served the league with distinction. He advocated for the full commercialisation of football and facilitated various competitions and sponsorship models,” the PSL said in a statement yesterday.
“His life, work and generosity will always be remembered by everyone who had the opportunity to work with him. As we mourn his sad departure, we celebrate his immense contribution in the development of local football. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Sambo family, friends and the entire football family,” the statement added.
Local football governing body, Zifa said football had lost a great servant who served football with tenacity and distinction.
“The giant of Zimbabwean football has been promoted to glory,” wrote Zifa in a statement yesterday.
The association added: “His demise is undoubtedly a great blow to the game. Sambo was a sober voice driven by passion, excellence and professionalism for the success of the game. His untimely death is a great loss, not only to the game, but also to the nation. A lot of football administrators, past and the current, drew wisdom from Sambo’s wealth of knowledge and experience.”
Sambo’s association with local football does not need any introduction as his name will always be thrown around whenever there is a discussion not only on the PSL, but also on the big brains of the country’s football in general.
He will be remembered for the way he managed to keep the PSL afloat after taking over from the revered Chris Sibanda who along with Morrison Sifelani masterminded a breakaway of the top clubs from Zifa to form the PSL.
Surely, nobody compares with Sibanda or Major in the manner in which he served the PSL, but the truth is that Sambo also served the league with distinction that the local league would not have been what it is today had it not been for the former Blackpool supremo.
Just like everybody else, Sambo had his faults and there are others who believe that the PSL could have been better had he done things the other way round.
Forgotten, however, is the fact that Sambo went out of his way and even sacrificed his own family for the sake of football and more importantly the PSL.
He spent hours and days on the road travelling to all parts of Zimbabwe on PSL business to safeguard the Econet Wireless brand as PSL sponsor and even at the time of his death, there was no discussion one would have with him that was not about football.
After leaving the PSL, Sambo took up role of a football gatekeeper, offering advice on the route the game should take in terms of administration.
Some even labelled him a radical and others called him a rebel, but whichever way Sambo was a man who just wanted the best for Zimbabwean football, hence he was always among the critics of some of Zifa’s ways of doing things.
He did not mind creating enemies as long as he thought he was doing the right thing for the future of the Zimbabwean game, and that is the reason why tributes are pouring from all the four corners of the country.
It should be placed on record that Sambo’s good football administration were birthed long back when in 1995 as Blackpool chairman, he led the team to the semi-finals of the then Africa Cup Winners’ Cup now the Caf Confederations Cup.
The same year, Blackpool lost the Zimbabwe league title to Dynamos on a technicality after the two teams had finished with the same number of points and the same goal difference, but Dynamos had scored more goals.
Sambo also served in the executive of Motor Action Football Club.