THE government yesterday joined the nation in mourning the death of soccer legend Paul Gundani, with Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane describing the former Ziscosteel and Warriors’ defender as an “astute sports administrator par-excellence”.
Gundani died on Wednesday at the age of 49 and will be buried in Kwekwe this morning. At the time of his death, Gundani was the Footballers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Fuz) secretary general.
“It’s with great shock and grief that we learn of the untimely death of the legendary Warrior and arguably one of the finest footballers to ever emerge out of the country Paul Gundani. He was indeed an astute sports administrator par-excellence. We will forever treasure his magnanimous contribution to Zimbabwean football and sport in general,” read a statement released by Hlongwane.
“Let me, on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe, my ministry and on my own behalf express my heartfelt condolences to his widow Hazvinei, his children, the Gundani family and the entire football fraternity.
“May you find solace in the fact that his labour and determination towards sport development in the country was not in vain. It’s this selflessness that we all seek to emulate. The void that he has left may be difficult to plug but his selfless contribution to sport in the country will forever be cherished. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace.”
As the secretary-general of Fuz, Gundani won a number of cases on behalf of players with the major one involving former Highlanders’ midfielder Masimba Mambare.
The player successfully sought a writ of execution to attach Bosso’s property following the club’s delay in paying his $10,000 signing-on fee.
Fuz also won cases against How Mine and Caps United for either unfair dismissal of players or outstanding signing-on fees.
Fuz president Desmond Maringwa said it would be difficult to fill the void left by Gundani.
“His death is piercing through the heart and what hurts most is that he died at a time when we had passed through difficult times in as far as getting Fuz running was concerned. His role will certainly be difficult to play for anyone because he knew his work. He was dedicated to his work and enjoyed it. I think he has played his part and it’s now up to those remaining to make sure that his dream of creating a conducive working environment for players is fulfilled,” said Maringwa.
Premier Soccer League chairman Twine Phiri said Gundani’s death had robbed football of a true warrior and unionist.
“His death has left a huge void in the football fraternity. Gundani contributed immensely to the development of football in Zimbabwe. He was not only a great player and football hero, but a pillar of strength to players. His contribution will forever be cherished,” said Phiri.
Zifa education officer Brian Moyo, who sought Fuz’s help in recovering his Caf education officer’s allowances amounting to $18,000 that Zifa has been diverting, said Gundani fought for justice and fair labour practices.
Speaking on behalf of players, How Mine captain Gilbert Banda said: “Football has been left poorer. Gundani was more than a brother to all of us and gave lots of players free advice. There were times when players faced difficulties getting their clearance letters or outstanding allowances from clubs and Gundani was always available to assist. We hope that the leadership of Maringwa will be able to carry on with the good work that Gundani did.”
Highlanders’ technical advisor Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu said Gundani was exemplary during and after his playing days.
The veteran coach admired Gundani’s dedication to the creation of fair labour practices in the football industry.
“I know some clubs found a raw deal dealing with him as a player representative, but he was one of the people who were championing players’ rights and professionalism in sport.
“His death is a big blow for the future of football in this country. Paul took it upon himself through Fuz to educate footballers on contracts that they were getting into,” said Zulu.
“During our days, we didn’t have contracts and when one got injured, the club forgot about them, but Fuz made it a point that clubs honour the promises they would have made. Because of Paul’s work alongside Maringwa and Hebert Dick, they kept club officials on their toes, knowing well that they can’t take players for granted,” Zulu said.