So long Rahman Gumbo…A football legend and a master of jokes
Nkosilathi Sibanda and Innocent Kurira
THE nation has lost a bright shining light and a national icon following the death of Rahman Gumbo. The news of his demise hit hard on many who knew him and admired him. Gumbo was a unique figure in the football world and his death was also unique as he will be laid to rest today on the day he was supposed to celebrate his birthday.
Gumbo was a man who changed lives through his talent and passion for football. He inspired millions on the field of play as a player and a coach. But what his closest friends and family remember most is that he was an “entertainer” of note.
He had a great sense of humour and made those around him laugh their lungs out. They enjoyed his presence and his jokes, even during camps of teams he played for. In the past week since Gumbo passed away, those memories lingered. Players, football administrators and fans spoke the same of Rahman.
Jovial is the word that best describes his character. His friends and family shared their testimonies yesterday at his memorial service at the Bulawayo Amphitheatre, and they revealed that Gumbo was not only a football legend but also a master of jokes. He could have been a successful entertainer had he chosen a different career path.
Highlanders’ former player Blessing Gumiso said that Gumbo was instrumental in shaping his life and career.
“I am in pain but I will always remember how he made us feel at ease. During our days with Rahman as coach, we played our game for the Highlanders family. We were a unit,” said Gumiso.
Who will make us laugh now? This was the question asked yesterday. His all-time friend and play mate at Highlanders, Amin Soma-Phiri took to the stage and left the crowd gathered in stitches. He reminisced of their playing days at Bosso in the late 80s. According to him, no one else but Rahman could make everyone happy.
Another close friend of the late, Alexander Maseko put it plainly that he was a comedian. Players who went under Rahman’s tutelage relived the late coach’s life and moments.
Gift Lunga Jnr said Rahman would oftentimes buy them drinks, including beer.
“He would come to our drinking spots on Monday’s when we were off. We would try to run away and he would say, sit and enjoy your drinks. He would go on to buy more drinks and have fun. The next day however, was something else. Just as you walk into the training session you notice there are no balls. You will know the session will be all about running. Gumbo will be standing there saying those who drank my money know themselves. I want to remove my money out of your systems,” said Lunga.
That pool of players who won the league championship included Zenzo Moyo. Moyo weighed in as well, saying Rahman was full of some comical surprises.
“I remember this other time we were playing Masvingo United and we were under so much pressure in the first-half. Masvingo were all over us. We went into the break with the score at 0-0. We went into the dressing room and expected a serious team talk to get us back into game but Rahman stood behind a curtain in that locker room and said nothing for over 10 minutes and only opened his mouth to say let’s drink water and go back,” said Moyo.
Former national team captain Ephraim Chawanda said Gumbo was a bubbly character.
“There was no dull moment around Rahman Gumbo. A few days before he passed on he was in Gaborone, normally we would meet but this time around we couldn’t meet and I never got a chance to say goodbye,” said Chawanda.
At nation team level, Rahman passed through the hands of Gibson Homela, who said without the late coach, no one laughed at camp.
“I coached Rahman, he was just a person who wanted to see people laughing. He just did not want to see anyone stressed. He always found a way to leave people in stitches.”
Johannes Ngodzo, another fine player honed by Gumbo, said: “We are talking about a man who gave me my first opportunity in football. He was serious with his job but the jokes never stopped. Even if you cost the team he will tell you while picking you for the next match siyakufa kodwa lawe uyadlisa.”
Premier Soccer League chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele said there was something unique about Rahman. By the time Rahman coached Bosso, Ndebele was in the team executive.
“There are some players who would come to the office complaining about being benched and Rahman would simple reply, uzalidlala khonangapho ehofisini.”
Highlanders captain Ariel Sibanda paid tribute, saying it was Rahman who gave him the chance to put on the Warriors’ jersey.
“I’m deeply saddened by this loss. Rahman Gumbo gave me my first national cap at a time when the country had a goalkeepers’ crisis with injuries to Tapuwa Kapini and Energy Murambadoro. At that time he told me, ‘young man, football is the same’ and I got a chance to play in the national team.”
Elifasi Mashaba who was standing in for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said: “Very few get the honour of a State-assisted funeral. It’s a big honour and Rahman deserved it.”
Politician and friend Joe Tshuma said Rahman exuded love throughout his life.
“He left a culture of love and forgiveness. Hopefully we will all hold on to that. Let’s not hold grudges. Let’s not point fingers, he was a unifier outside the field of play,” said Tshuma.
Gumbo died last Friday aged 59.
A legend in Zimbabwe football, Gumbo had a successful coaching career spanning over two decades when he coached and won a lot of silverware with countless clubs locally as well as in the region.
Gumbo, one of the players of Zimbabwe’s most successful Warriors squad which was popularly known as the Dream team, collapsed at his home in Palapye, Botswana on Thursday and passed on at a Francistown hospital on Friday.
The Warriors legend was the head coach of Botswana Premier League side Morupule Wanderers before he was shown the exit door last week.
Gumbo’s last local topflight job in the domestic Castle Lager Premiership was with the Gweru-based TelOne in 2019. He also had stints with Highlanders, CAPS United, FC Platinum, Chicken Inn and other clubs in South Africa and Malawi.
In Botswana Gumbo coached some of the top teams such as Township Rollers, Gaborone United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
Gumbo won league titles in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi.
He also coached Zimbabwe’s senior national team, the Warriors.