BULAWAYO – Tributes have poured in for former Zimbabwe international and Highlanders midfielder Willard Mashinkila Khumalo, who passed away on Sunday.
Source : DailyNewsZim
Khumalo, 49, passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning at a local hospital where he had been admitted since Wednesday after a long battle with diabetes.
In a statement, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Cuthbert Dube said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Willard a true legend who was impressive for the Warriors and Highlanders whenever he was called to duty.
“Zifa is in mourning with his family, friends and the local football family as everyone grapples with this shocking loss. Lala ngokuthula Nduna, qhawe lenguqu (rest in peace true football hero).
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Khumalo family in this time of grief and we encourage them to seek comfort and solace in the almighty.”
Former Highlanders and AmaZulu coach Cosmas Tsano Zulu said: “Personally I’m saddened.
“He was a good player, a genius in his own right. A team leader, a captain and a coach who was an icon and a motivator to many young soccer players.
“It is unfortunate, he is late but I believe he is a guy where youngsters could learn a lot. A true soccer legend has died and our hearts are bleeding.
“To me he is a legend who was and I guess he still is a household name. You would hear the stadium shouting ‘Nduna’ which by the way means ‘King’.
“The supporters made him king of football because of his talent and work rate.”
Highlanders junior development stalwart Ali “Baba” Dube said: “I’m saddened by the death of Willard. I started coaching him when he was 12-years-old still attending Mzilikazi Primary School.
“He then became a captain of all the age groups until he was promoted to the first team at the age of 18.
“ I recommended the then coach Bobby Clarke to try him in the first team. From then he never set a foot wrong.
“He is one of the legends I produced and I am heartbroken that he has left us so early before he could show us much of what he could do as a coach.”
Football legend Barry Daka said: “Khumalo was a good person. I made a name as a coach because of players like Willard. It is so sad that he has passed away at a young age. I knew Willard Khumalo from a tender age. Actually, I knew his parents also and he was like a son to me.
“I am in pain as I speak. He was a great player. One who could walk and fit in any team. One of the most disciplined and committed players I have worked with. He was a fighter and he really earned his place even in the Zimbabwe national soccer team.”
Sportbrief founder Tongai Mwenje also said:
” Willard Khumalo was a great person in the sport fraternity, football in particular. We treasure what he has achieved in the football circle and would want to take that button and pass it on to the next generation for the betterment of Zimbabwean football.”
Mwenje also emphasized on the need for the nation to come together and support the bereaved Khumalo family during this sad moment.
” We want to come together as a nation, football family, and support the grieved family during this sad moment. Football is a like religion, it brings people together so let’s emulate that spirit and show the Khumalo family that we are together in this gloomy moment,” he said.
Khumalo played for Highlanders juniors before joining the first team where he played with the likes of Madinda Ndlovu, Rahman Gumbo,Netsai Moyo and Peter Nkomo to mention but a few.
After playing for Highlanders at the twilight of his career Khumalo played for Lancashire Steel before he turned to coaching.
Khumalo coached a number of lower division clubs and other Premiership teams. He coached teams like Lancashire Steel, East Rovers, Border Strikers and Mwana Africa.
He was also the Highlanders team manager last year before he was replaced by Moyo this season.