Collin Matiza Sports Editor
FORMER CAPS United and Warriors coach Charles Mhlauri yesterday led the tributes to veteran football administrator Willard Manyengavana who died on Monday morning aged 52.
He collapsed during an aerobics class at a gym in Harare.
Manyengavana, who was chairman of the ZIFA Northern Region Division One, was pronounced dead on arrival at Avenues Clinic.
He will be buried tomorrow at 2pm at Glen Forest Memorial Park in Harare and mourners are gathered at No. 6167 Bloomingdale, Mabelreign, Harare.
Mhlauri, who is now based in the United States and worked with Manyengavana for two years when he was the CAPS United head coach in 2004 and 2005, described the late seasoned administrator as a doyen of local football.
“The sad end to the life of a gentleman of the game. What saddens me the most is how “on some glad day he flew away”. He had so much to offer,’’ said Mhlauri.
“He fought a good fight, and I am glad to have shared some great moments with Widzo.
“He was my manager during the 2004-2005 era at CAPS United. I have worked with managers, and he was simply a deacon in that department.
“He was a Christian at heart and would religiously take me to Mufakose Seventh Day Adventist Church every Sabbath.
“We would seat next to the entrance for reasons you all know; his phone could ring anytime trying to avoid getting assigned to other afternoon church rituals that would impede into football obligations.
“But he was a church elder with a passion for the game.
“He was one guy that never let the team down. When (the late) Cheche Billiat was down and out, with no friends and hope chained at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, it was only Willard who stood with him to his last breath.
“I answered a call in the middle of the night due to the time difference, it was the same old voice of Cheche Billiat chained to a bed at a hospital but guess who was with him, Willard Manyengavana.
“Cheche summed it up when he said “Blah Chale ndina Blah Widzo havana kundirasa”. That was his character. Cheche would not have said it better, but he is no more.’’
Mhlauri said Manyengavana was a team player.
“Willard was not alone but was a great team player. He was at the centre of organising for finances for my trip to Germany and managed to work with Wellington Dangarembizi, David Nyamweda and the now Minister of Justice Ziyambi Ziyambi and made the trip a success.
“There are two types of managers, those that do the work and those that get the credit, Widzo did the work.
“Widzo never ran away or switched off his phone he was right there swinging for the players. This is one guy I can say travelled the whole journey with CAPS United and risked a lot for CAPS United.
“There were moments I would be sitting with him in his office when there was no money to pay players . . . !! He always came up with a plan. “My thoughts and prayers to his family. I will forever miss Widzo,” Mhlauri said.
The Sports Commission have described Manyengavana as a man who had an unquestionable dedication and loyalty to football. “Owing to his unquestionable dedication and loyalty to football, he rose through the ranks from CAPS United Football Club to the Premier League until he became what he was before passing on.
“Willard steered the Northern Region football affairs with unflinching passion and exceptional distinction which helped transform the way it was run. His sudden loss has left a huge vacuum which will be difficult to fill in. “Indeed our local football is now poorer without Willard whose astuteness had taken Northern Region to dizzy heights.’’