Former Zimbabwe Saints player dies from suspected Covid-19

BEN Makadzange, a former Manicaland, Meikles, Olympics and Zimbabwe Saints FC defender who died on Sunday night was buried at Umvutshwa Garden of Rest Cemetery on Wednesday.

He was 65. The former football star died after complications with diabetes that led to him falling to suspected Covid-19.

It was a dark week in which former Bulawayo Wanderers’ Abraham Nyoni also succumbed to suspected Covid-19.

Makadzange was a prominent member of the exciting Zimbabwe Saints side of the 1970s and early 1980s before he moved to Olympics.

Ben Makadzange

It was at Olympics that his career appeared to grow in leaps and bounds that he attracted the attention of then national team coach John Rugg and was considered for squad training.

However, a switch of jobs from Meikles to National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) forced his retirement from the game at the age of 26.

Having chosen work over the game, Makadzange was unfortunate as he would lose one of his limbs in a train accident near Bannockburn.

Philemon Dangarembwa a close friend of Makadzange of many years described the loss as untimely.

“He was a quiet a guy who was ever smiling. He hurt nobody and such was his character even during his playing days. He always wore a smile.

“He will be missed for the person and teammate he was,” said Dangarembwa also a former Zimbabwe Saints defender.

“I was on top of my game having moved from Zimbabwe Saints to Olympics. A job switch from Meikles to work as a fireman at the National Railways of Zimbabwe in 1983 cost me a career that was blossoming. John Rugg, the then national team coach, had just considered me for squad training and I was looking forward to it.

“But then at the NRZ it was not so easy. Awkward working hours meant I would not be able to attend training regularly. This even affected my availability for matches as the job was a Sunday to Sunday thing. Eventually I hung up my boots at the age of 26,” said Makadzange in a 2013 interview with our sister paper, Chronicle.

He missed the Rothmans Shield won by Olympics then coached by Barry Daka in 1983.

Patrick Ncube, Boyce Malunga, Roland Papaya, Mike Mhlanga and legend Tito Paketh were some of the top players he teamed up with at Olympics

“I missed picking up a medal with Olympics because I could not get time off at the NRZ. I lost what would have been something to savour and show my children and grandchildren because of that but nonetheless there are some from my days at Zimbabwe Saints that I will always cherish,” said Makadzange then.

He had already collected the 1977 league and cup double with Chikwata.

Makadzange’s football career started off in Mzilikazi suburb, the city’s hub of arts and soccer when he attended Mzilikazi Primary School in the mid-60s.

He grew up with the likes of Willie and Kainoti Luphahla, Augustine Lunga and Msitheli Sikhosana who starred for Highlanders.

Makadzange attended Gloag Secondary School in Bubi District where he played as a midfielder.

By the time he was in Form Three, Makadzange played for Manicaland FC, a team that played in the lower divisions of the regional league and was managed by his father, Fred.

It was coached by Howard Maviza, one of the best coaches to work at Eagles and Zimbabwe Saints.

They played against teams like Ngwalongwalo, Bulawayo Rockets, Rex and Black Horrors.

After school he moved to Meikles where he played with the late Titus Majola, Teddy Nyoni, Joseph Ndlovu and Zebron Magorimbo.

Dangarembwa and Makadzange’s friendship dates back to the 1970s and the reason why the late rightback moved to Saints was because of his buddy’s influence in 1977, a year Chikwata ruled the roost. He was nicknamed Bunny after the Jamaican reggae prodigy.

He said he was happy to have won the league title in his debut season in the then Rhodesia National Football League and his first cup triumph.

He played with the likes of Dangarembwa, Gibson Homela, Isaac Banda, Steve Kwashi, William Sibanda, Musa Muzanenhamo, Itai Chieza, Andrew Kadengu and Douglas Maneto.

He rose to recognition when he shut out Edward Katsvere of Dynamos in the 1977 Castle Cup final.

By his own admission, Hwange’s David “Dididi” Khumalo, Boy Ndlovu, the late maestro Majuta Mpofu, Doubt Sithole and Mike Abrahams were among some of the players he rated highly as opponents. – Sunday News ■

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