Collin Matiza and Takudzwa Chitsiga
ZIMBABWEAN football was yesterday plunged into mourning following the death of CAPS United legend Friday “Breakdown’’ Phiri, one of the finest footballers to grace the domestic game. A former Zimbabwe international striker, who later delved into coaching and took charge of several Premiership and Division One sides, Phiri died yesterday morning at his home in Glen Norah.
Phiri, who was also known among local football fans as “Amayenge’’, was a robust forward who could use both his head and feet brilliantly at the peak of his playing powers. According to his brother-in-law, Ranias Gwatida, Phiri died yesterday morning at his home in Glen Norah A at the age of 60 after he was diagnosed of liver cancer and was briefly admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital last week.
He has left behind his wife, Rose, and three children — two boys, David and Manfred, and a girl Debra. Mourners are gathered at No. 6457 Glen Norah A Flats in Harare. And yesterday messages of condolences poured in for Phiri who, apart from being a CAPS United legend, was also a much-travelled coach, having had coaching stints in England, South Africa and Swaziland. CAPS United president Farai Jere said it was a dark day for their club and they will help with the funeral expenses.
“He was a pillar of the CAPS United family and he leaves behind a void that will be difficult to fill. We are going to his house today to see where we can help his family in these difficult times because he was our gentle giant,” said Jere. Former CAPS United president Twine Phiri said football had lost a gentleman.
“I knew him from his early days as a player and I worked with him for a long time. He was one of a kind and we will miss him,” said Phiri. Charles “Raw Meat” Sibanda, who rubbed shoulders with Phiri at both CAPS United and the senior national team in the early 1980s, described the former bustling striker as a brilliant player.
“We are saddened by the loss of Friday Phiri who did a lot for CAPS United and the senior national team. He came to join CAPS United in 1980 after we had won the league title the previous year in 1979 after he impressed the late coach Ashton “Papa” Nyazika.
“He was a legend and there is no way one can speak of CAPS United legends without mentioning Friday Phiri,” said Sibanda. Legendary local football commentator Charles “CNN” Mabika said Zimbabwean football is poorer today.
“It is sad that we lost one of the finest strikers I have ever witnessed locally. I think he was a lethal striker who to me can only be matched by Agent Sawu.
“He was very effective both on the ground and in the air. He was nicknamed Breakdown or Amayenge with the former nickname coming from former Herald Sports Editor Allan Hlatywayo as he could break any defence while Amayenge was a musical group from Zambia. He was very versatile and after doing well for Mutare United he moved to CAPS United (in 1980) after he impressed the coach with his brilliant style of play,” Mabika said.
Former CAPS United goalkeeper Karim Abdul and defender Frank “Dealer” Nyamukuta also sent their messages of condolence to the Phiri family from their respective bases in Australia and England. Another former CAPS United player, Butler Masango, CAPS United board chairman Andy Hodges, Dominic Chimhavi, the communications manager of the South African Football Association, also sent their condolence messages. UK-based former Dynamos manager Malcom Fourie also expressed his shock over the untimely death of Phiri.
“It was an honour to have known such a humble and soft-spoken gentleman who was one of Zimbabwe’s greatest and finest players,” Fourie said. And former Dynamos captain Memory Mucherahowa described Phiri as a “gentle giant” who was a marvel to watch on the pitch. He was once named CAPS United’s Footballer of the Year and was a regular figure on the Soccer Stars of the Year calendar. His first senior coaching post came in June 1994 at CAPS United when he took over the hot seat after the former “Cup Kings” of Zimbabwe had fired their Ghanaian chief coach Nti Behene Bonsu.
But he was there for only six months before he packed his bags and headed for Swaziland where he took over as coach at Eleven Men in Flight in January 1995. He later moved to South Africa and England for an attachment with Chelsea where he said he gained some invaluable coaching experience working under Italian gaffer Gianluca Vialli.
He also coached former England and Chelsea captain John Terry while he was still a junior player at Stamford Bridge. But with more than 30 caps for the senior national team, Phiri, who started playing football in Bulawayo when he was still a teenager, is still best remembered for his contribution to CAPS United and Zimbabwe.
He boasted to have belonged to the much-famed generation that featured the likes of Shacky “Mr Goals” Tauro, Joseph Zulu, Tymon Mabaleka, Majuta Mpofu, Oliver “Dzunguman” Kateya, Sunday (Marimo) Chidzambwa, Ephert Lungu, David “Yogi” Mandigora, Onius Musana, David Muchineripi, Archieford “Chehuchi” Chimutanda, Stanford “Stix” M’tizwa, Mike “Mabhurugwa” Abrahams, Robert Godoka, Wonder Chaka, David Chisambi, July “Jujuju” Sharara, Graham Boyle, Byron “Piri Piri” Manuel, Japhet “Shortcat” M’parutsa, Hamid “Muzukuru” Dhana, Edward “Madhobha” Katsvere, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma and Joel “Jubilee” Shambo.