The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
FORMER Highlanders coach, Reuben “Exe” Tsengwa, who died at the age of 60 last Thursday was laid to rest yesterday at Athlone Cemetery in Bulawayo.
Tsengwa breathed his last on Thursday after a lengthy illness. His sister, Shylet Mpofu said while his brother had been unwell for a while, he had actually shown signs of recovery before his death. He is survived by three children, Hlanganani, Medeline and Shylet.
Former Highlanders coach, Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu described Tsengwa was at the same level as Ali “Baba” Dube in terms of unearthing gifted footballers.
“This guy was in the line with people like Ali ‘Baba’ Dube in terms of identifying talent, he was very good at that, that’s why I’ve got a lot of respect for him,’’ Zulu said.
Zulu feels that Tsengwa still had a lot to contribute to the development of football in the country.
“It’s really sad, to me these young coaches would have been the future of football in this country, for them to go before us it stifles the future of development in this country.”
Former Highlanders chairman, Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda, who saw Tsengwa during his football playing days felt that he was unlucky not to play in the country’s top league.
“It’s so sad, he was one of the best midfielders I ever saw, it’s unfortunate he couldn’t make it to the premier league. He was a very intelligent coach, its so sad that he has left us,’’ Sibanda said.
Tsengwa served as assistant coach to Methembe Ndlovu in 2006 when Highlanders won their last championship with Sibanda as the club chairman.
“Reuben was a very quiet person, a very disciplined young coach who was always listening to whatever was being said. He was an assistant coach to Methembe, those are the last people to win the championship for Highlanders, it’s so sad that he has gone before Highlanders won the other championship,’’ said Sibanda.
To Gift Lunga Junior, one of the players Tsengwa coached at Highlanders in 2008, the late coach was like a brother since they both lived in Mzilikazi. Lunga also spoke of Tsengwa’s commitment to his job as a coach.
“Reuben Tsengwa was a brother to me because I grew up in the same area, he was dedicated as a coach, he gave good advice. It’s very sad because he was a mentor to me especially in Mzilikazi, he socialised with a lot of people but he was strict, he emphasised on discipline,’’ Lunga said.
Zulu, Sibanda and Lunga were some of the football personalities who attended Tsengwa’s funeral with others being Ndumiso Gumede, Wisdom Mabhena, Tobias Mudyambanje, Wellington Sibanda, Wonder Mpofu, Mayfield Daka, Johannes Ngodzo, Mkhuphali Masuku, Netsai Moyo, Melusi “Mabaleka” Sibanda as well as Noel Cele. Highlanders committee member Mabhena spoke on behalf of the club at the funeral.
A defensive midfielder during his playing days, Tsengwa came through the Highlanders ranks and went up to the reserve team before he left for Gweru where he played most of his senior football for Bata Power.
When he retired from playing, Tsengwa returned to Highlanders as a coach where he started off with the juniors. Some of the players he produced are Honour Gombami, Gilbert Banda, the late Bekithemba “Malala” Nkiwane, Marshal Machazane, Brian Ndlovu, Thubelihle Nkomazana, Obadiah Tarumbwa, Zephania Ngodzo and Heritein Masuku who all went on to play for the Highlanders first team.
It was his great work with the juniors which saw him being roped into the Bosso first team in 2006 as assistant coach to Ndlovu.
Tsengwa took over in July 2008 as Highlanders caretaker coach when Ndlovu was fired in what turned out to be one of the worst seasons for Highlanders. He took charge of the team until the end of the season.
Tsengwa reunited with Ndlovu at Bantu Rovers where he worked as a juniors coach and was also involved with Tshintsha Guluva’s first team.