Touching send-off for village soccer legend

One would have raised their eyebrows if they were told that a soccer match was underway at a funeral wake deep in remote Makande, Mashonaland West province.

THE piercing sound of the whistle could be heard from a distance grabbing the attention of anyone within its earshot.

One would have raised their eyebrows if they were told that a soccer match was underway at a funeral wake deep in remote Makande, Mashonaland West province.

And, indeed, there was a soccer match after the Makande community decided to organise one as a befitting send-off of their very own soccer legend Cosmas Matongo, whose love for soccer had endeared him to many.

The late Matongo met his maker while driving a Mazda B22 truck which was involved in an accident with a CAG bus at the 26-kilometre peg along Karoi-Magunje Road.

Five people, including Matongo, died on the spot while several others were injured.

All the 15 people on board the truck were relatives, a bitter pill the Makonde community struggled to swallow.

The deceased had come for the festive holiday when they met their fate after the CAG bus driver tried to overtake on a curve resulting in the collision.

Three of the victims namely Trynos Mavhurire (23), Trymore Mapiringanwa (23) and Agnes Mupini (61) were buried on January 6, about 15 kilometres away from Matongo’s village.

Another victim Anisha Kufandikamwe (15) was buried on January 7.

It was, however, Matongo's funeral wake which became the talk of the area. A soccer match was even played a few hours before his burial.

Matongo’s rural home is situated a stone’s throw from Makande Primary School where he did his primary education and later Makande Secondary for Ordinary Level.

Born on December 2, 1994, Matongo was a village hero as a local teacher and for five years he became a role model as a soccer player.

He retired last year from teaching and joined his uncle in Harare for better projects with better remuneration after he found it increasingly difficult to sustain himself and family through the teaching profession.

His former teammates requested to give him a befitting farewell at the school soccer grounds where he had shown his prowess.

The hearse carrying his body wound its way to Makande Primary School soccer ground, a pitch with overgrown grass that has nurtured many talents that remain untapped.

Matongo was a striker of repute in this community who was a senior player at the Mabullets team, a social club known in Shona vernacular as mabhuza.

His 10-year stint at the club earned him respect in Makande and he became a darling to many villagers.

Tears trickled down the villagers’ cheeks as colleagues played the 20-minute match in memory of the striker whose life was cut short by a reckless bus driver.

On this day, a fresh striker Douglas Manyere was picked to represent the late Matongo as a striker.

He executed his job with accuracy that gripped mourners when he dribbled past two defenders before laying a powerful shot and scoring a brilliant goal.

Mourners invaded the pitch celebrating the goal as a community uniquely celebrated the life of their legend.

On many occasions over the past decade, Matongo was the leading top goal scorer who led the MaBullets social club to clinch three trophies and 11 jerseys during local tournaments in Makande.

The team coach Collen ‘Boss Kudzi’ Karambamuchero expressed shock over Matongo’s death.

Matongo was a crowd puller even on his final day of burial. He lured soccer fanatics who included Hurungwe West MP Chinjai Kambuzuma and provincial resident minister Marian Chombo.

Teachers, local traditional leadership, communal farmers, the elderly, and the youths came to pay their last respects to the local hero.

Twenty minutes into the funeral wake’s match, the coach (Karambamuchero) decided to pull out Manyere, who was playing in the late Matongo’s position. Manyere grabbed the ball and walked away.

The game was over.

“Matongo helped us win three trophies since 2013 when he was part of the senior team. We won several tournaments in Siakobvu,” Karambamuchero said.

He indicated that Matongo Tournament will be unveiled to raise money for his 25-year-old wife and son.

Chombo said the tragic loss of Matongo is unbearable.

“One death is just too many for our community and the nation at large. We hope that the community and family can accept it as God’s will,” Chombo said.

“The giant soccer tree has fallen from our midst and the timing of his death leaves us all devastated.”

According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, an average 2 000 people die every year on the country’s roads. Most accidents are attributed to human error.

Today, Matongo, a village champion has become a statistic as a victim of a road traffic  accident caused by yet another human error.

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