Senior Sports Reporter
BUTLER MASANGO, who died in South Africa yesterday, will be remembered as one of the talented players in the Golden Generation of the Zimbabwe Under-23 side of the mid-’90s.
The ex-Black Aces and CAPS United midfielder died at a Johannesburg hospital, days after he was admitted with heart complications.
He was 47.
“He was diagnosed with a heart problem three years ago and has been in and out of hospital,’’ said close family member, Innocencial Pemba Dzumbunu.
“He fought hard but the problem had also affected his lungs, so the doctors could not help the situation, at the end.
“The family is devastated.”
Masango was part of the Young Warriors side that came within touching distance of qualifying for the ‘96 Olympic Games, only to be denied by the star-studded Nigerian side that had the likes of Nwankwo Kanu and Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha.
The Nigerians went on to win the Olympics title in Atlanta.
The Zimbabwe team also won a silver medal during the 1995 All-Africa Games in Harare.
Masango’s childhood friend and ex-teammate, Gift Muzadzi, said he was shattered by the news of his colleague’s death.
“It’s sad, he was one of us. We came a long way from childhood and we were still close in adulthood,’’ he said.
“I’m very sorry to the Masango family and the whole soccer fraternity.
“He was a role model to the upcoming generation. He was a brother and a friend during the All-Africa Games in 1995.
“He was one of the best players in the squad and he played a very important role in that team.
“I can’t find the right words to explain the loss of such a former football star. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to stop death.
“But, if there was a national heroes’ acre for footballers, I think Batso (Masango) deserved to be laid to rest there.’’
Masango also played for Blackpool and Rufaro Rovers in the local Premiership and had a stint in Poland.
“Heartbreaking it is,” said former Warriors forward, Alois Bunjira.
“I have known Butler since we were young footballers at Chitungwiza Youth Stars Under-14.
“We played there for two years before I moved to Black Rhinos. We remained friends until we met up again in the national Under-20s and Under-23s.
“He is one guy I would make sure I visit each time I am in South Africa. We had become brothers, sharing our passion for junior development.
“The last time I was with him was just before the first lockdown when I was buying soccer balls at Cresta Mall and he came through to help me select the balls.
“We have lost a great friend and a footballing son of Zimbabwe. My condolences to his young family, friends and relatives.’’
Another ex-teammate Stewart Murisa said he was devastated by the loss.
“Batso and I came a long way, we grew up as football rivals on the pitch, and friends, as well. We have lost a brother and a colleague,” said Murisa.
Masango, who hung up his boots in the early 2000s, was running a football academy in Johannesburg.
He was also a scout for Kaizer Chiefs and was close to the club’s founder and owner Kaizer Motaung.
Masango also managed several players, including Warriors midfielder Thabani Kamusoko, for whom he engineered a move to Zambian side, ZESCO United, in 2019.
UK-based football coach, Phillip Zulu, said Masango left a legacy of passion in grassroots football.
“He was outstanding, he was streetwise and an affable guy whose passion for the game was second to none,’’ he said.
“Football was his life and daily bread, he played against some of the greatest talents in world football like Jay Jay Okocha.
“If there’s one quality of life that Batso leaves behind as a legacy, it’s his great love for the game and tireless humble approach towards serving the sport of football.
“He was helping some many youngsters around Southern Africa to get opportunities abroad.
“Football has lost a great servant.’’
Masango is survived by his wife, Nyarai Pemba, and six-year-old daughter Gladys.
He also had two other children from his previous marriage — Chido and Tino.
Funeral arrangements were still being finalised yesterday.