Senior Sports Reporter
NATIONAL hero Perrance Shiri helped shape the history of domestic football and, on one occasion, moved mountains to help the Warriors fulfil an AFCON qualifier.
The 65-year-old, who helped lay the foundation in the formation of Chapungu United, died in Harare on Wednesday.
Former ZIFA chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze, said Shiri will always be part of the local football family’s history.
He revealed Shiri was called upon, on various occasions, when the Warriors were in distress and he was always ready to answer the call.
Through Shiri’s spirited efforts, Mashingaidze said, the Warriors fulfilled an AFCON qualifier, which had hung in the balance, in Kinshasa.
Several players boycotted the match in fear of contracting the Ebola virus.
“You cannot take it away from him that he was part of the family of football for a very long time,’’ said Mashingaidze.
“We really commiserate with the Government, his family and the whole of Zimbabwe on this loss.
“I still remember in 1995, when the nation was faced with a crisis after almost the entire senior national team boycotted the match against Zaire, because of the deadly Ebola virus.
“Shiri was approached and he helped the team secure an aircraft for them to Kinshasa and back.
“He had a close football working relationship with former ZIFA presidents Cuthbert Dube and Rafik Khan.’’
Mashingaidze, who is now the Dynamos chief executive, said ZIFA again turned to Shiri when complications arose in 2012.
“He was also available during FC Platinum’s maiden campaign in the CAF Champions League in 2012,’’ he said.
“Remember, there was an issue about the airport and the distance to be travelled by the visiting team.
“ZIFA approached him and he offered to facilitate an aircraft to ferry the visiting team to Zvishavane where they would land at an aerodrome.
“But, CAF still insisted that there were no top hotels in the area and FC Platinum were, unfortunately, moved to play in Bulawayo.’’
One of domestic football’s longest servants, Lazarus “DeMbare’’ Mhurushomana, said Shiri had a deep passion for football as shown by his involvement with top-flight teams Chapungu, Blue Swallows and Black Rhinos.
Shiri was also a central figure in the success of the annual Zimbabwe Defence Forces Trophy, which has been a permanent feature on the domestic football calendar, for decades.
“No doubt, he had a rich history in the development of football in Zimbabwe,’’ said the former ZIFA senior administration officer.
“He was there during Chapungu’s formative stages, when they were still trying to break into competitive football.
“Initially, they were called Air Force of Zimbabwe Football Club before they changed the name to Chapungu United.
“I remember very well that he was the driving force behind the team. He was still a young man that time but, in terms of motivation, he was a huge force to reckon with within the uniformed forces’ football teams.
“Although many people associate him with Chapungu, the truth is he encouraged the participation of all the uniformed forces teams in football, he was very supportive of the game.
“Words fail me, but what I can say is that he was a true sportsman with unparalleled passion for football.
“He was a regular figure in the organisation of the ZDF Trophy. He played a huge part to keep that tournament going over the years.’’
A former Black Rhinos executive member, who opted to remain anonymous, said Shiri left indelible footprints in the history of the country’s uniformed forces teams.
He said Zimbabwean football history cannot be complete without mentioning the contributions of the uniformed forces teams.
“His commitment to sport has always been of the highest order. There are some people who excel in just talking and giving promises,’’ he said.
“But, it’s what you do that matters.
“Shiri was very supportive, not only to the AFZ teams, but for the whole Defence Forces. He did a lot for the teams.
“He also supported the national team, the Warriors, in its fund-raising efforts.
“He was one guy who thrived on action. Surprisingly, he was so approachable despite his high profile.
“He was a leader who related well with all the people at all levels.
“When you interact with someone senior, who makes a positive impact in your life, you get to understand better the void they leave when they die.’’
ZIFA also sent their condolence message.
The association’s spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said Shiri’s legacy will be remembered forever.
“The beautiful game of football has lost a passionate cadre who contributed immensely to the development of football,’’ said Gwesela.
“He was very supportive of various Air Force of Zimbabwe teams, including Chapungu and Blue Swallows, during his time as the Air Marshal.
“It is an undeniable fact that uniformed forces teams have contributed to the development of the game in Zimbabwe and the rich history of football we enjoy.
“It was all through the sacrifices of people like Shiri that such teams have managed to survive and grow over the years.
“He also supported women’s football, in particular his involvement with the Swallows women’s team.’’