Kudakwashe Mugari Deputy News Editor
IT is with a heavy heart that I have to pen my last note to coach Prince Kadewere.
On Wednesday morning, I was shocked to read on social media that Pipi had passed away.
My relationship with him dates back to the days he used to play for Monomotapa.
We both grew up in Highfield.
Pipi was in Egypt and I was in Lusaka, so close that, if we were in the rural areas, we could be borrowing salt from each other.
His career was cut short due to a series of injuries.
Pipi then became the coach of a Highfield-based academy, Startrack Academy, led by Rickson Zenda, as the chairman.
I was the team the manager.
The academy was being bankrolled by Startrack Freight company.
We decided to engage influential members of football in the neighbourhood – Onias Kadewere, Pipi’s late father, Zivanai “ZIFA” Chiyangwa and Lloyd Chigowe.
We joined Harare Division Two A League and the chairman of that league was the late Owen Chandamale.
In the middle of the season, when we were doing well, NHS Division One club came, and snatched Pipi from us.
Later, the same club approached us that they wanted to dispose their franchise because of financial challenges.
Through Pipi, we negotiated and bought the franchise with the coach rejoining us.
We changed the name of the team to Starbill FC.
Star came from Rickson Zenda of Startreck Company and Bill came from Billy Shereni of Shereni Transport and Logistics.
I remember one day when we hosted Flame Lily who were then vying for a Premiership ticket.
I had met the team’s coaches, Nesbert ‘’Yabo’’ Saruchera and Masimba ‘’Zhole’’ Mutame two days before in town.
Mind games had already started.
On Friday, before our last training I told Pipi that Yabo had promised us a hiding in our duel.
Pipi then came home and then told me he was certain we were going to win.
We missed a couple of chances during the match with Pipi accusing me of having helped our opponents cast a spell on our boys by shaking the hands of Yabo and Zhole.
And, deep into added time, Kasimero Chimbadzwa struck and we lost.
The other one was when we lost in Kariba and he, again, blamed for the defeat because of my pre-match interactions with the home team’s coach, Jostein Mathuthu.
The whole team turned against me and I was a lonely passenger on the way home.
The following Tuesday, I brought in Ikabort Masocha, as head coach, and demoted Pipi to the role of assistant.
They worked like that until Lloyd Chitembwe joined the club as the head coach.
Pipi remained as assistant to Chitembwe.
A number of times, I fired coach Pipi, verbally, and then reversed the decision and, in the end, we would laugh about it.
One of those occasions was ahead of a battle against DStv.
Two days before the match, I had again fired the coaches, and took over as coach and manager.
However, a few minutes into the game, I was calling Pipi to come and help me as the opponents were all over our team.
The whole match, I was literally on the phone, asking for advise from Pipi, telling him how the opponents were playing and how we could counter that.
At the interval, we led 1-0 and Pipi sent this message, ‘’now makuziva kuti coach ndiani, ndirikuda kuda winning bonus yangu.”
Gilbert Mushangazhike equalised for the opponents and the match ended 1-1.
By the next training session, Pipi was back in charge.
It’s sad he isn’t here today.
The team we also led, Starbill, isn’t around anymore.
Just last month, we chatted on the phone and he was telling me that I needed to come back to football again.
It’s something I was considering.
But, how can I return now?
How can I return to the game when my colleague is no longer around?
We walked together, for a long time, and worked together, for a considerable period.
We had our differences, at times, but, now and again, we would find each other.
It was as if he couldn’t do without the other person.
Now that he is gone, it’s going to be quite a test for me.