Lovemore Zigara and Munyaradzi Musiiwa in Kwekwe
FOOTBALLERS Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general and former Zimbabwe and Ziscosteel defender, Paul Gundani, has died. Gundani, who was 49, died at Topomasi Private Hospital in Kwekwe after a short illness in a suspected case of malaria. Mourners are gathered at Number 3 Taunton Road in Fitchlea.
According to his widow, Hazvinei Daphne Gundani, the former Warriors defender complained of a headache on Monday evening and started vomiting after taking some anti-malaria tablets.
“His condition improved on Tuesday and he seemed stable. When I left for work he was feeling much better and when I returned in the evening he appeared weak and vomited again after taking his tablets.
“He then went to sleep and woke up around 2am and he seemed to be in pain. When I asked him, he didn’t give me a satisfactory answer, but I could tell that he was not feeling well.
“His condition worsened around 4am and we took him to hospital around 6am where the doctor examined him, took blood samples for testing and he suspected that it could be cerebral malaria or meningitis. As we were awaiting the results, he passed on around 12.30pm,” said a tearful Hazvinei.
Hazvinei, who is also sister to Gundani’s former Ziscosteel teammate Ephraim Dzimbiri (late), described him as a loving and caring husband and father who was always there for his family.
“I met Paul at the peak of his career in 1984 when he was playing alongside my brother, Ephraim Dzimbiri. Then he was already playing for the national Under-23 team though he was still 19-years-old.
“He was my best friend, he was a hero and was always there for his family. To me he is irreplaceable. He was also a devoted Christian as he was a second councillor in the bishopric of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
Gundani graduated into the Ziscosteel senior team in 1984 when he was still a student Drake High School.
After hanging his boots in 1994, Gundani was employed by Lancashire Steel as a welfare officer until he retired in 2006. He was also involved in athletics coaching.
He then ventured into coaching and had a stint in Botswana where he coached Zico United during the 2008 /9 season.
At the height of the country’s economic challenges where players’ rights were being violated, Gundani spearheaded the formation of the FUZ which has been instrumental in safeguarding the welfare interests of footballers.
He is survived by his wife and six children — Shannon, Brandon, Gannon, Sharon, Canon and Shane who resides in South Africa.
Meanwhile, condolences poured from former players who played alongside Gundani.
Godfrey Tamirepi described Gundani’s death as “a great loss.”
“It is a great loss to the football fraternity considering the contribution he made towards football development in Kwekwe and the nation at large.
“To me he was like a brother because he persuaded me to join Ziscosteel from Hwange in 1990 and he was a motivator and a professional,” Tamirepi said.
Legendary former Zimbabwe skipper Moses Chunga expressed shock at the passing away of his ex-Warriors teammate.
“We have lost a champion who fought for the cause of footballers. We have been deeply saddened by his untimely death also considering the fact that he was still young,” Chunga said.
ZIFA, through Communications manager Xolisani Gwesela, also expressed shock over Gundani’s death.
“We are extremely indignant by the death of Paul Gundani, a formidable member of the Dream Team and was very remarkable for the Warriors during his time,” Gwesela said.
“It is saddening that we continue to lose these football heroes at a time when the beautiful game desperately needs their services.
“Paul was a diligent player representative, a vibrant trade unionist and also served football with distinction.
“As an association we will ensure that Paul is awarded a befitting send off.
“ZIFA is in mourning with his family, friends and the local football family as everyone grapples with the shocking loss,’’ Gwesela said.
Sports Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe also paid tribute to Gundani with the institutes’ director Russell Mhiribidi calling on the game’s leadership to carry on the “great work that Paul had been doing for football’’.
“We are saddened by his untimely death. The work he was doing at FUZ was contributing a lot a lot to the growth of football in the country. He also coached athletics and then returned to football which shows that he was a sportsman at heart.
“We often interacted with him in the sports leaders seminars and found his input very useful and we hope those in football administration will carry on with the god job he was doing,’’ Mhiribidi said.
Gundani was invited to join the steelmakers’ junior side by legendary coach Paul Moyo.
He graduated to the first team in 1983, aged 17 when football was naturally the most popular sport in their compound so it was natural for one to choose it.
Playing alongside his late former friend, Newman Bizeck, they formed a formidable partnership at Zisco, which saw them frustrate many great strikers from clubs like Dynamos, Highlanders, CAPS United and Blackpool.
Gundani’s exceptional talent saw him crowned one of the country’s most outstanding footballers on two occasions during his four-year stay at the Midlands-based side.
Within five years, Gundani, a regular in the junior national sides, especially the Under-20s, was selected to be part of the senior national team in 1988. He quickly became a household name.
He played for the national team between 1988 and 1996, but he mostly enjoyed his days playing for the “Dream Team” under late German coach Reinhard Fabisch.
“Those guys were a joy to work with. Fabisch, who coached us from 1992-1995 gave me a life-time experience in the national team because he was such a great motivator, who made us play to win for his sake,” Gundani was once quoted as saying.
“I also really enjoyed it when I rubbed shoulders with the country’s great soccer heroes like Japhet Mparutsa, Stanley ‘Sinyo’ Ndunduma, Stanford ‘Stix’ M’tizwa, Friday Phiri and David Mwanza in my early days. I had initially thought that these senior players would make life hell for me and the other juniors, but we were shocked by the excellent reception we got from them.
“Then came the flamboyant era of the Dream Team, where I played with Warriors like Bruce Grobbelaar, Francis Shonhayi, Benjamin Nkonjera, Rahman Gumbo, Alexander Maseko, Henry Mckop, Shepherd Muradzikwa, John Phiri, Ephraim Chawanda, Agent Sawu and the famous Ndlovu brothers, Madinda, Adam and Peter.
“That was more than a team. The coach brought a unity of purpose in us and we treated each other more like family members.
“We always made a vow that we would not lose a match and in most occasions, we achieved that goal,” he added.
With Gundani as one of the regulars, the Warriors at one time went 13 African Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers unbeaten under Fabisch. The squad humbled such African football giants as Cameroon, Guinea, Egypt and Angola.
Gundani’s most memorable match is when Zimbabwe thrashed Cameroon 4-1 in Harare, with him having driven a pile-driver from 35 metres out to score the second goal.
A nagging knee injury cut short his career at the age of 31.