CHRIS Sambo’s (pictured) sad passing on Wednesday, reportedly succumbing to coronavirus, is ironic in that while he was a passionate football administrator, he also spent the last few years of his life selflessly promoting healthy lifestyle, disease prevention and positive living.
The other irony is that Sambo has died in the year that an unprecedented medical global threat has wreaked havoc on two passions of his: health care and sport.
Best remembered as a competent chief executive officer of Zimbabwe’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) up until the mid-2000s, Sambo had, until his untimely death this week, dedicated his life to a voluntary humanitarian cause, working on a football project that helps women living with HIV or those at great risk of contracting it.
It was an undertaking the former PSL boss had a strong personal attachment to despite clearly lacking adequate resources, but people of Sambo’s integrity, community men with a passionate sense of duty, are testament to the old adage that “where there is a will there is a way”.
The project that Sambo spearheaded, a brainchild of his, was a football league for women teams, in which education about HIV and Aids was uppermost, then of course the fun aspect of things.
Women infected with the disease share ideas about living positively, whilst those not affected but endangered, mainly commercial sex workers, are persuaded to change lifestyles, or assisted to identify proper sources of livelihoods.
I bumped into Sambo on quite a few occasions in the last couple of years, and the topic would always sway in the direction of his football project, until I was nudged to pitch a story idea somewhere, which was duly given the green light.
The accompanying assignment was chiefly the health issues, but narrowing it down to an actual match between two of the women’s teams.
Everything was on course, ready for work, but then Covid-19 struck and all sporting activity around the world was brought to a grinding halt.
I would meet Sambo again sometime in the lockdown and as I would expect, he was bemoaning the negative impact of Covid-19 on what had promised to be a fruitful year for his project.
Little did we know that while coronavirus had stalled an endeavour so close to his heart, the grim reality of this pandemic would, just a few months later, turn out to be even more tragic.
As if it was not enough.
Neatly dressed always, towering in frame and an unmistakable booming voice echoing across authoritatively, many who knew him well have spoken of their admiration of Sambo’s style of administration, which was a breath of fresh air in a game where such professionals like him are a rare breed in our country.
Having spent the last few years of his time on earth in philanthropy, endeavouring to make life much easier for those affected and vulnerable to HIV, Sambo has fallen prey to a new scourge whose defeat, without doubt, would have been a top priority of his had he survived it.