Charlie White in LUTON, England, and Collin Matiza in HARARE
ABDUL Sumra, one of the finest basketball players to grace Zimbabwean courts, has died.
He was 58 and leaves behind a wife, Carla, and two children.
At the time of his death, Sumra was working for USAID in Luanda, Angola. A former Mozambique youth international, he rose to fame in Zimbabwe when he relocated from Maputo to Harare in 1980, at the age of 19.
In the first eight months, Sumra had already proved his class.
He became one of Seventy Sixers’ most valuable assets, excelled for Mashonaland Lions, in the inter-provincial tournament and played for this country in the early 1980s.
Sumra was also picked in the Zimbabwe squad for the All-Africa Championships, in Somalia, and later became one of the most skilful basketball players to come out of Africa.
Aggression, speed and dribbling skills were his hallmarks.
He first came to prominence at the great Arcadia Bucs where he played alongside big names like Norman “Dishy” Roberts, Gilmour Rawson and Kieth Fisher.
He then joined Hawks.
Sumra was capped five times and had a fine performance in the 1985 Africa Games in Nairobi, Kenya.
Hawks collapsed and a new team, Seventy Sixers, emerged to become a powerhouse in basketball.
They boasted the likes of Ben and Rodney Darck, Deryn McDonald, Tony Broderick and Victor David.
Ramsey MacDonald brought in top players like the late Denzil Jarvis, Taipanei Chirenzha, Josiah Chinamano and Kevin Cameron.
“We battled tough oppositions and Sumra never shirked,’’ Rodney Darck said.
Nigel Homan said, “We have lost a treasure.”
Anthony Broderick said, “A fine player and gentleman has gone,” while Ernie Noble said, “I cannot understand how a fit and healthy Sumra could go like this.”
Tracey Bell also paid tribute to Sumra on behalf of members of the Brown Velvet Organisation.
“Saddened by this news. This ‘sad season’ seems to be going on for ever!’’
Born on October 2, 1962, Sumra was a superb athlete whose sublime skills, on the court, were a joy to watch. Off the court, he was a wonderful human specimen.
At club level, Sumra rubbed shoulders with fellow talented players such as Desmond Glanville, Sebastian Goliath, Ben Darck, Rodney Darck, Abdul Sunday, Alvray Crewe, Victor David, Albert Stoddart, Tony Broderick, Deryn McDonald, Ernie Noble and Quentin Quarry.
Sumra was also a man of many talents.
In Mozambique he was a promising footballer and was also gifted at table tennis.
He was also the national junior snooker champion.
Football, though, was his first love until he was introduced to basketball by a friend at the age of 16.
“A friend asked me to play basketball with him one day and the speed and excitement of the game immediately appealed to me,” Sumra said in the 1980s, soon after his arrival in Zimbabwe from Mozambique.
“You have to play fast, and think quick to beat a taller opponent.’’
When he arrived in Harare, local basketball spectators were given a dazzling display of this talent.
His cat-like reflexes guided Lions through the then inter-provincial tournament undefeated.
“When you don’t play with speed and aggression it looks like a women’s game and the crowd becomes bored,” Sumra said. Despite studying English at Harare Polytechnic, before having an apprenticeship in electronics, Sumra still found time for rigorous training programmes.
“You can’t play good basketball if you’re not fit,” said the man who later became one of the basketball icons in Zimbabwe.