Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
FORMER Bulawayo Wanderers and Eagles FC player Charles Wadawu was laid to rest yesterday as hundreds of people converged to bid him farewell at Lady Stanley Cemetery.
Wadawu, who was 62, died on Sunday at his home in Emakhandeni suburb after succumbing to an undisclosed illness that had seen him bedridden since December.
Members of the football family led in the mourning of Wadawu whose football career dates back to 1970 when he turned out for Bushbucks, a team that was owned by the late nationalist Dr Herbert Ushewokunze.
Mourners described him as a man who had a passion not just for football but sport in general as after his retirement as a player he got involved in coaching and administration.
Football players, coaches and administrators who were in attendance include Ndumiso Gumede, Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda, Johannes “Tshisa” Ngodzo, Herbert Dick, Brian Moyo, Julius Ndlovu, Amin Soma-Phiri, Chipo Tsodzo, Tobias Mudyambanje, Douglas Mloyi, Peter “Captain Oxo” Nkomo and Tshuma among others.
He served on the Bulawayo Amateur Boxing Association executive and was Ward 11 (Emakhandeni) District Sports Committee chairman; he also served as chief executive in the Emakhandeni Legends Club and sourced kits for junior side, Emakhandeni Pirates.
Chicken Inn coach, Rahman Gumbo who played with Wadawu at Eagles together with Clive Moyo, Johannes Tshuma, Noel Nyoni, Stanford Ntini, Boy Ndlovu and Joseph Ndebele described Wadawu as a disciplined player who was a great motivator.
He said when players decided to strike demanding their salaries he would calm them and convince them to return to the field of play.
“He was a motivator, a joker and more like a brother to us. He was always ready to offer an ear and advice.
“Wadawu impressed me with his discipline as I vividly remember that he only took his first beer, which was all he needed to get drunk on the day, after his retirement as a player. He was of the opinion that drinking as a player was detrimental to one’s performance,” said Gumbo.
Highlanders goalkeepers’ coach, Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu said he first played with Wadawu at Bushbucks before he moved to Rangers and then to Wanderers which later changed to Eagles.
He said Wadawu was also part of the technical committee that selected Bulawayo Province soccer coaches for the Youth Games.
Tsano bemoaned the lack of a pension fund in sport saying it is a blight the Sports Ministry has to work on.
“The job of leaders is to take care of the poorest of the poor and for us in football it means the introduction of a pension because when one stops playing or being in the structures, income dries up.
“I spoke to the Sports Minister (Makhosini Hlongwane) about the issue when he assumed the office and I was hoping he would deal with the issue. I hope something is done soon because other countries now have this pension but we are lagging behind,” he said.
Emakhandeni resident, Josiah Kashiri, who worked with Wadawu in various football ventures including Emakhandeni Legends, said Wadawu was a fountain of wisdom who had a passion for sports.
“We knew we could go to him for advice on whatever issue and he would never turn you down but was always open. He was quite knowledgeable and we could rely on him giving the correct information,” he said.
Wadawu was born on 24 May 1954 at Mpilo Central Hospital and grew up in Mzilikazi and did his primary education at Lozikeyi and then went to Mzilikazi High School.
He joined Monarch after completing his education and rose through the ranks to sales manager.
Wadawu’s three sons, Noel, Warren and Richard Choruma who turned out for Highlanders, followed their father’s footsteps in sport.
Noel now based in the United States, made his name in tennis while Warren, based in Australia, plays football.