THE last six years have seen the demise of quite a number of people I knew well — great personal friends, colleagues and relatives — who have all sadly died young.
It is in this respect that I particularly deeply commiserate with those closest to Edzai Kasinauyo, the former Zimbabwe footballer who passed way in South Africa last Friday aged just 42.
There is really nothing that prepares you for the loss of a loved one, someone so close or someone you just happen to know well. Nothing takes away the pain. But it does rather demystify death, each time it happens, bringing you face-to-face with the reality of this most painful eventuality.
In the case of Kasinauyo’s untimely death, the real truth, I am sure his loved ones will testify, is that the man became a troubled soul in his last days on earth.
Last week, the Zimbabwean football fraternity woke up to the sad news of the passing of this prominent figure in the game —taken from our midst by the cruel hand of fate against which we are all powerless.
In local football circles, Kasinauyo had become, in the eyes of many, a role model and shining example of success in post-playing career until his life unexpectedly turned on its head.
He had spent many years playing in South Africa, notably at Moroka Swallows and Ajax Cape Town, and also earned a handful of caps with Zimbabwe’s national team.
Upon hanging his boots, Kasinauyo plied his trade as a businessman of quiet dignity and grace. He became a respected player agent — very well-connected and established — facilitating several deals outside the country for some of Zimbabwe’s best players, and also venturing into the sports apparel industry with some success as well.
Sometime in 2015 I was approached by Kasinauyo alongside fellow journalist Tatenda Makanda with an offer to help launch a project that unfortunately never materialised. He seemed to have everything going for him.
He had set up offices on a charming, neat double-storey apartment down Herbert Chitepo Avenue in a prime district of Harare, next to such illustrious neighbours as the Alliance Francaise.
By nature Kasinauyo was a very organised and tidy person. He always dressed smartly to work, tie askew all the time — nothing close to the football player he was only a few years back. This is how seriously he viewed his image and that of his business.
Drivers drove in and out of the clean and spacious premises, transporting supplies.
Secretaries made calls upstairs to inform of some of Zimbabwe’s finest footballers dropping by at the office to discuss contracts. Emails trickled in from foreign clubs requesting information of potential signings, and travel agencies confirming air tickets for players travelling for trials.
It was a modern sports business establishment driven by a young, dynamic and enthusiastic team — all evidently loving what they did. The sky appeared the only limit for Kasinauyo, all the more so when he was elected to the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) executive committee in December 2015, becoming part of a new leadership expected to drive the game forward in the country following the ousting of Cuthbert Dube’s much-maligned administration.
But no sooner had Kasinauyo’s influence in the politics of the game started to be felt than great misfortune befell him.
He was suspended in March 2016 and later fired from Zifa after being accused of plotting to influence players to throw games in the opening round of Zimbabwe’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification competition.
What followed after seemed like the fatal blow for Kasinauyo. He was judged, convicted and crucified by Zifa, with the association’s president Phillip Chiyangwa declaring in April last year that Kasinauyo was “finished” following a ruling by the High Court throwing out an urgent application for the suspension to be lifted.
All of a sudden, with the flick of the fingers, a rising star had been hung out to dry — exposed to the outrage and unforgiving condemnation of a football-loving nation still to forget the calamitous effects of a previous match-fixing scam.
Whether at the weakest point of his morals Kasinauyo really tried to fix the national team’s games or not, we will never know.
The courts, however, found him and his co-accused not guilty in a verdict late 2016.
Just a little respite though in the case of Kasinauyo, one gets the feeling. It appears the damage had already been done.
Kasinauyo was a very proud man, proud of what he achieved as a player and proud of what he was doing as a former player.
In the kind of business he was in — managing players and handling contracts — uprightness is everything, and indeed it meant everything to Kasinauyo.
Following the unfortunate turn of events, things could not be the same again for him.
In his first interview after the initial suspension early 2016, given to a local newspaper, Kasinauyo aptly explained his great anguish, saying that the allegations against him “gets to the heart of my integrity.”
It might have well also got to the heart of his health, and took massive toll.
And as he slept in that hospital bed in Johannesburg last Friday, about to draw his last breath, he probably told himself how nothing had been left for him worth fighting for.
I hope he will now find some peace.