among a crop of local talented players who played for Zimbabwe soon after the country attained its Independence in April 1980, died at Woking in Surrey, England, at the weekend.
He was 56.
According to George “TNT” Rollo, who played with Payne at the now-defunct former Premier Soccer League side Arcadia United from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, the tall and gangling centreback died on Saturday evening in England where he had been based for the past 10 years.
“Reg had problems with his legs and he underwent an operation (sometime last week). The operation was successful but he then suffered a severe stroke the next day.
“He was paralysed on the left hand side, all the way down, and he went into a coma and he later died on Saturday at around 7:15pm,” said Rollo.
Another former Arcadia United player Charlie White, who is now based in England, said: “Reg Payne actually had a stroke on Saturday evening at around 7:15. We were all shocked by his sudden and untimely death because he didn’t look all that sick.
“One thing I liked about Reg Payne is that although he looked more like a white man than a coloured guy with his long hair, he wasn’t a racist . . . He was a funny character and he was just loved by everybody, be it black, white or coloured,” White said from his base in England yesterday.
Rollo, who won the 1978 Soccer Star of the Year award while he was turning out for Arcadia United with Payne, also described the former towering defender as a fearless “class leader” who just hated to lose.
“Reg was our captain at Arcadia United for a long time, I think from the late 1970s up to the mid-1980s. He was a strong and tall centreback who used to take no prisoners . . . He was feared by most centre strikers in the then Super League.”
In fact, Payne was known as a soccer defender who “uses his head” during play.
He is best remembered for using his height to score a number of crucial goals for Arcadia United when the chips were down and was known for scoring beautiful headers from corners.
That was not all he used his head for because when guarding his goal area, he was hard to beat in an aerial battle.
His secret was simple. He had the height that made him stand out in the Arcadia team.
The towering defender once said he could remember the ball as his favourite toy when he was only three. He grew up with soccer as his favourite sport.
Payne first went to Moffat Primary School in the Arcadia area of Harare where he stamped his authority as a good player, resulting in him being selected the Mashonaland schools captain in 1965.
He joined the Arcadia Under-14 side in 1966.
Determination saw Payne, who was also educated at Morgan High School in Arcadia, being promoted to the senior team in 1968 and for the rest of that season he played in the reserve side.
The following year he had his first team chance.
Three years later “The Rock of Gibraltar” moved to Rufaro Rovers on loan and was back at Arcadia in 1975.
He then left Zimbabwe for England in 1978 where he was involved in social soccer and played for Osibisa, a team made up of players from this country.
After a brief stay in England, Payne returned home and rejoined Arcadia and was called to the senior national team in 1983 at the age of 28.
At first he did not feature for the Warriors as he found himself on the bench twice. But that was not a fault of his making considering that he was on a long lay-off because of an injury.
But Payne’s most memorable moment as a soccer player came in 1983 when he led Arcadia (then known as Arcadia Karls) to the Chibuku Trophy.
In fact, Payne captained the first Arcadia side to win a cup in 13 years when his team won that trophy.
He captained the side the following year but suffered a leg injury half-way through the season which kept him out of action for some months before returning late in 1984.
At Arcadia, Payne played alongside fellow talented players such as Nat Bismarck, Graham Boyle, Bethal Salis, Mike Mhlanga, Hedley Layton, Charlie White, Joey Antipas, Rollo, Charlie Jones, Majid and Hamid Dhana, David Zulu, Mike “Mabhurugwa” Abrahams, Anthony Kambani, Derrick Petrie, Carlos Max, Richard Manda, Clever Muzuva, Danny Jambo, Owen Moodley, Charlie Nyagowa and Goosie Galloway.
The other players who rubbed shoulders with Payne during his playing days at Arcadia were Doorman, Zowie and Allen Moodley, Farid Mohamed, Maxwell Joseph, Pennel McKop, Stanley “Samora” Chirambadare, Max de Souza, Vince and Miguel Lemming, Donovan Laurie, Adrian “Butch” Wallace, Lawrence Holland and Zata Govender.
Payne feared no striker in Zimbabwe during that time although he admired Dynamos’ Moses Chunga whom he said was one of the best strikers this country has ever produced.
The tall defender at one stage, March 1985 to be exact, left Arcadia to join CAPS United but he only featured for Makepekepe once when they played Rio Dairibord.
He later claimed that CAPS did not give him the full amount of money they had agreed upon, and that was why “the big guy” did not play for them.
Payne rejoined Arcadia at the beginning of the 1986 season but he later hung his boots due to a nagging knee injury.
He later featured for a social soccer side, Disaster, which was made up mostly of former Arcadia United players.
The year 2001 saw him leaving the country to settle in England with his wife Althea, son Chea and daughter Leverne, and the Payne family have been staying there for the past 10 years.