Yesterday Lionel Messi cried, he struggled to speak. He cried because he had to bid farewell to his boyhood club Barcelona , a club which was a part of his life for 21 years. The Barcelona fans are still mourning too, mourning the end of an era. In the Zimbabwe football fraternity we are also mourning , mourning the eternal departure of another legend of our game, Joe ” Kode from Mabvuku ” Mugabe. For Messi another chapter of his football narrative will be written maybe with the oil money sponsored PSG, but for Kode, the journey has reached its conclusion. What will remain are the memories and these we will always cherish!
Joe Mugabe who succumbed to cancer in the UK was a true and loyal servant of Zimbabwe football. He was also a true son of Caps United, a club he served with distinction for close to fifteen years. Although he did not get as many opportunities as his talent deserved with the Zimbabwe Warriors, it is important to note that he was part of that ill fated journey to Zaire in 1995 when a depleted Warriors were massacred 5-0 in Kinshasa.
Joe Mugabe and other local based Warriors had to step in to save the match which had been boycotted by the foreign based players who feared the dreaded Ebola disease ravaging Zaire then. Other players in the team included Johannes Tshuma, Melusi Nkiwane, Matambanashe Sibanda, Lloyd Jowa, Pasanduka Pakamisa, Ian Gorowa, Masimba Dinyero, Wellington Shangiwa, Cain and Abel Muteji, Kingstone Rinembota, Shingirayi Twaliki, Mercedes ” Rambo ” Sibanda, Brenna ” Baba va Gari ” Msiska, Chipo Tsodzo and Gift Lunga. Talk of put your life on the line for the country, this is what these legends did. The coach was Gibson Homela assisted by Barry Daka.
Yes , the circumstances of his National tour of duty were far from pleasing, the result a humiliating one but the incident revealed the hazards that the players had to deal with in the service of the country.
I will remember Kode as a big match player. A die hard Dynamos fan Bright Chipungu send me a voice note. He said,
” Ndarwadziwa nekufa kwa Joe, i had great respect for him. That guy never gave up, he had a never say die spirit and every time he was on the ball, hana yangu yaisagarisika !” That is some eulogy coming from a fan who wears his blue heart on the sleeve. Joe gained the respect of friend and foe alike.
” Never say die spirit !”… Bright would not have captured it any better! Joe had a diminutive stature but had a big heart. He always carried the battle to the opponents and he wanted everyone on board. If he felt that someone was not carrying his weight, he did not hesitate to speak his mind.
” I hated to !” he once said in an interview.
Joe was a fierce competitor and he won many midfield battles through sheer determination, skill and his indefatigable nature. When it was time for battle, he rolled up his socks, shorts and sleeves , literally. That image will live long in the memory of many of us who were privileged to watch him weave his magic on green grass of Zimbabwe Stadiums.
He had it all, ball control and ball protection , he had a way to shield the ball from opponents which defied his small stature. He had a football brain and he knew what to do with or without the ball. His runs into the box resulted in him scoring many goals from midfield. He scored headers too which again points to his clever positioning. Above all he had the heart for battle, Kode was the complete package, a dream player for any coach and teammates but a thorn in the flesh for opponents.
The tears shed by fans across the football divide are heartfelt. The love felt for the diminutive general is real . He will be missed by all of us who love Zimbabwe Football.
Go well legend , you came, you saw , conquered and departed. The memories will forever be cherished !