By Kevin Mapasure
Football giants Dynamos have requested the government to confer national hero status on legend George Shaya who died at his Harare home early yesterday.
Zimbabwe woke up to the news of Shaya’s death after the five-time Soccer Star of the Year had battled illness for some years.
He was 74. One of the family members yesterday said they had tentatively set Friday as the date for his burial in Harare.
DeMbare, where Shaya played his football and later took up a role in administrative structures, led the glowing tributes for the Mastermind and later announced that they had written to government through Zifa requesting hero status.
If granted, he would be the first footballer to get such an honour with other requests for eminent sportspersons having been rejected in the past.
“Dynamos has written to Zifa seeking facilitation of conferment of national hero status on the late George “Mastermind” Shaya who passed on yesterday,” the club said in a statement.
“Five-time Soccer Star of the Year Shaya set the bar of football achievements high that the record he set has not been breached to date. He came tops in 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1977. The request for the national hero status is premised on Shaya representing the rise of black national consciousness and nationalism through his football genius, artistry and prowess during his playing days spanning 1968 to late 70s. He was part of the black generation that used football to express their wish for self-determination, racial parity, justice and independence during the Unilateral Declaration of Independence era in Rhodesia. Shaya demonstrated that blacks were not as inferior to their white compatriots as portrayed by the Rhodesia Front government by getting a national call up into the Rhodesia national football team that played Australia in 1969, in the Fifa World Cup qualifiers. The star-studded Rhodesia team had both white and black players drawn from the elite football clubs of Rhodesia. Mastermind asserted ‘black power’ through football by winning the coveted Soccer Star of The Year award in 1969, the year when the award was inaugurated in Rhodesia. As if that was not enough, he went on to win the award a record five times, a feat which no other player has done to date.”
“Dynamos joins the whole nation in mourning the passing on of a sporting legend George “Mastermind” Shaya.”
The club described Shaya as the greatest footballer of all time.
“The greatest Zimbabwean player of all time illuminated football fans from 1968 up to the time of his retirement in the late 1970s. Shaya was in a class of his own and his contribution to football in particular and sport in general is incomparable. A true football magician who dazzled past his opponents in both club and national colours, making football look easy to play. The best of them all, Shaya was a football giant whose humility, genius, artistry and sport excellence won him adulation and hero status from both his colleagues at Dynamos and the opponents. A player who never ran short of football trickery, the “Mastermind” was like a choir master who would hypnotise both the choir and the audience with his football finesse.”
Former Zimbabwe national team goalkeeper Japhet Muparutsa described the late Shaya as irreplaceable.
“The Mastermind is no more and he leaves us with great memories. I was 18 when I moved from Harare Hospital Football Club to join Dynamos in 1981. By that time Mudhara George as we called him was very close to retirement. His replacements had already been recruited, the late Steve Kwashi and to a great extent July “Jujuju” Sharara. The two had big shoes to fill. They tried their best, but to be honest there was only one George Shaya. The man was special, irreplaceable so to speak. No one could play like him.”
Muparutsa added: “Zimbabwe football has lost an icon, a man who deserves to be honoured with even a statue, a football stand named after or even a street name. Under normal circumstances, this should have happened a long time ago but it did not. It is sad!”
Zimbabwe’s supreme football authority Zifa said Shaya’s exploits and success still inspire footballers of today.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association conveys its heartfelt condolences to the Shaya family and the local football fraternity at large following the sad passing of football legend George ‘Mastermind’ Shaya,” Zifa’s stament read.
“An exceptional footballer who excelled during the colonial era, one of the most difficult periods in the history of Zimbabwe. His legacy of excellence as a serial winner and record-five-time soccer star lives eternal to inspire many generations of local footballers. Arguably one of the best footballers produced in the motherland, Shaya departs before seeing anyone match his haul of five soccer star accolades in the top flight league.”
- Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmapasure