THE unexpected death of Fighton Simukonda, has cast yet another dark cloud on Zambian football.
Simukonda who was until his death coach for Chingola side, Nchanga Rangers died on Monday and was put to rest yesterday.
Being one of the most experienced coaches around, it is indeed a major blow to the country especially this time when we cannot afford to underutilise the technical expertise from our local trainers.
Most of us recall how much of a cardinal factor Simukonda had been to Zambian football both as a player and coach despite his unceremonial exit as Under-23 mentor following the country’s disastrous outing in Senegal last year.
The Under-23 African Championship was one of the unfruitful outings, although I feel it wasn’t justification enough to fire someone who had a lot to offer…he did not fail alone anyway.
That said, the man had his highs and lows especially as a coach both at club and national levels.
His immense contribution to the game can never be overemphasised and many journalists, especially old guards, would attest. I know for a fact that he never liked interviews and I experienced that in one of the trips abroad.
Simukonda had his own flaws and really wasn’t an easy person to work with especially if he didn’t know you…luckily I was among the scribes he could easily interact with especially in pursuit of stories.
‘Big Fai’ as he was fondly called was one of the most humble persons I have ever met, a disciplinarian and focused as can be seen from his many achievements as a coach and player.
In my early days as a sports reporter, I had an opportunity to get close to Simukonda as I covered Zanaco both locally and internationally.
I personally knew Simukonda in 2006 when I accompanied Zanaco to Tanzania for a Champions League fixture against Young Africans.
That trip gave me an opportunity to get close to both Simukonda and his then assistant Wedson Nyirenda before I accompanied the team again to Tunisia for the same assignment.
I vividly recall our personal conversations as we enjoyed some intoxicating liquid. We shared quite a lot and those memories will remain embedded in my heart.
Simukonda will be remembered by many for so many reasons.
He has touched many souls and moulded many young players that will live to remember his footprints.
The current Under-23 national team players owe their success to him.
Ode to the gallant football guru!!!
May God Almighty comfort his family.
Rest in eternal peace Big Fai!
My prayers are also with FAZ president Kalusha Bwalya who lost his sister, Mwenya Bwalya-Njobvu on Wednesday. I feel for the Bwalya family having two tragic losses in a space of a month.
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