Takudzwa Chitsiga Sports Reporter
JUST as he often did during his playing career with the Warriors, CAPS United legend Friday Phiri brought together the domestic football family as they united to pay their last respects to the former striker, who was buried at Zororo Memorial Park near Chitungwiza yesterday.
Friday starred for both Zimbabwe and CAPS United as a bustling striker before he ventured into coaching. But on Friday morning, the former Monomotapa, CAPS United, Eagles and Border Strikers coach breathed his last at his Glen Norah home at the age of 60.
He succumbed to liver cancer.
Hordes of people including his former teammates, protégés, opponents, administrators and supporters alike thronged Zororo Memorial Park to bury Friday, with CAPS United and Dynamos supporters putting aside their rivalry to come and lay to rest the ex-Warriors hit man.
The club that gave Friday fame as a player, CAPS United, led the way in mourning their legend and took care of their former coach’s funeral expenses.
CAPS United president Farai Jere told mourners that although Friday was no longer in their coaching ranks, his club had continued to consult him for advice and would remain poorer without his counsel.
“I am very happy for everyone who pitched up to give farewell to one of our former coaches, who had CAPS United at heart. We used to work closely with Friday and would consult him every time we needed his assistance. He was a great guy who looked after CAPS United players’ welfare as he would always be up-to-date with each and every individual. It’s painful that we lost him, but to all soccer-loving supporters, we thank you for being with us at this time of bereavement,” said Jere.
Just like the CAPS United leadership and supporters, friends, family and former teammates were also by Friday’s final resting place at Zororo, with all those who spoke giving eulogies about his contribution to the game.
Friday had coaching stints in England, South Africa and Swaziland.
Former Zimbabwe and CAPS United right-back Carlos Max, who played alongside Friday at both the Green Machine and in the Warriors, said he had been pained by the demise of a man whom he described as having also been endowed with good leadership qualities.
“It is so sad that we lost one of our own, who did well both as a player and coach. When I joined CAPS United, Friday was one of the senior players and he gave us direction. He was a good guy, ever smiling and a good brother who showed us the way,” said Max.
ZPC Kariba assistant coach Brenna Msiska, who played alongside Friday at CAPS United, said the former striker’s death had dealt the domestic game a huge blow.
“Friday Phiri was a good player, who could communicate well and score goals. He could play as a left attacking winger or a striker and he could score goals at will. He was a reliable player who tormented defenders at ease. We always looked up to him and he had a good career,” Msiska said.
Dynamos assistant coach Biggie Zuze might have played against Friday, but the duo would later combine their coaching talents at Monomotapa and was among mourners at Zororo for the burial.
“He was a brother to me, we played against each other and he was a brilliant striker and we worked together as well. I played against Phiri and it is so sad that we lost him. We have been good friends for some time after we worked together at Monomotapa. He was a good scout, who introduced a lot of junior players as he had faith in youngsters. He could see raw talent and upgrade it to a top level. A lot of youngsters have realised their full potential after coming out of Friday Phiri’s hands,’’ Zuze said.
A number of coaches and former players, including David George, Sunday and Misheck Chidzambwa, Moses Chunga, Steve Chikodzi, Emmanuel Nyahuma, Nesbert Saruchera, Alois Bunjira, Charles Sibanda, Clayton Munemo and John Phiri also attended the burial.
Sunday Chidzambwa was Friday’s captain in the Warriors in the 1980s
Former CAPS United and Premier Soccer League president Twine Phiri was also at the burial as was the Green Machine’s chief executive Cuthbert Chitima and Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches leader Bhekimpilo Nyoni.
Sport and Recreation Commission acting director-general Joseph Muchechetere sent his condolences to the Phiri family following Friday’s death.
“It is with a heavy and a broken heart that we have received the sad news of the passing on of one of our football greats Friday ‘Amayenge’ Phiri, who donned our football national colours while representing us at various international competitions. Ameyenge, as he was affectionately known, used to mesmerise the football fans with his deft touches and flashes of individual brilliance. He was also a dedicated footballer, who was always ready whenever he was called for national duty. On behalf of the SRC board and management and staff, I would like to collectively offer our condolences to his family. Our hope had been that he was going to recuperate, however, the Lord Almighty had other plans. May the family be strengthened and comforted by the Lord during these difficult and dark moments. Indeed, football has lost a great son and a dedicated servant, whom we all used to admire. We shall forever cherish his contribution to sport and in particular football. May his soul rest and anchor in eternal peace,’’ Muchechetere said.