BY TERRY MADYAUTA
ALOIS Bunjira has paid an emotional tribute to the late former Caps United kingpin and posterboy Joe Mugabe, describing the former star as a “legend of a man”.
Mugabe (52) succumbed to cancer yesterday morning in the United Kingdom where he was staying since 2003, after a long battle with the scourge.
Remembered for his footballing genius on the pitch and his humble character off it, Mugabe became a revered domestic superstar during the early 90s.
His genius on the pitch earned him high praise from local coaches, who hailed him as one of the greatest footballers to grace the domestic scene and the late Steve Kwashi is qouted on several occasions describing Mugabe’s talent as “unique and classy”.
For Bunjira, who was Mugabe’s lifelong friend, the latter was a humble unifier.
“I knew him before he knew me, because he started playing for Caps United before me. I heard about him before my professional career, little did I know that we would become friends,” Bunjira said.
“For me he was a good friend and our friendship went beyond the field of play. Even when we both retired, we remained in contact and he was a strong supporter of my academy.
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“He would provide quality equipment for the project.
“He was a unifier because when I arrived at Caps United, most of the players were coming from Darryn T and to be honest, we were anticipating a massive division between the players who were already at the club and us who were coming from Darryn T.
“But because of him (Mugabe) and other players like Silva Chigwenje, we did not take time to be glued to each other as a team.
“They were like the glue that unified us all to become a force that we were. He was vice-captain and his brilliance in playing and leading the team did not allow anyone to argue about it because he was the best of the best and a legend of a man.”
Bunjira recalled how Kode as Mugabe was nicknamed, would secretly organise special outings for the team every Monday without the club leadership’s knowledge.
“I say he was the glue to our team, because of what he did for us as a team.
“Together with Silva, he would organise outings for players every Monday when we were not training, just for us to hang out and bond, something which the coaches found out after a very long time.
“That broke all the bridges and barriers we could have faced as people with different personalities. We would dine at a place called Time and Place in Harare.
“That is the main thing that made that class of Caps United to be strong because we had a unity of purpose and relationships that went further than just being teammates,” he said.
Mugabe undoubtedly left an indelible mark in local football with brilliant performances for his club since being promoted into the first team in 1988.
For his stellar performances, the late star was voted the club’s Player of the Year a record four times in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 2001.
He also won the 1996 Premier Soccer League title and a number of major silverware that saw Caps United earning the tag Cup Kings, which had been enjoyed by their rivals Dynamos and Highlanders.
Being vice-captain of the team, Mugabe was a pillar in the team’s surge, although his performance for the club did not take him to the national team.
“Without a doubt, he is a key part of what Caps United became. Winning titles and accolades made us all proud and raised the team to become a force to reckon with in the country,” Bunjira.
“We shall forever remember his contributions to the local game and in our careers as individuals.”
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