DYNAMOS midfielder Denver Mukamba has said the contribution made by his late former club and national teammate George Chigova will never be forgotten, while former Warriors goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya feels the void left by the ex-goalkeeper will be hard to fill.
Chigova, nicknamed Jojola, died in his sleep at his home in South Africa last week, leaving behind a wife and three daughters.
His body arrived at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport at around 11:30am aboard a South African Airways aircraft and was received by hundreds of people, including relatives, friends, his former colleagues, Dynamos players and officials, Zifa and Footballers Union of Zimbabwe officials and football supporters.
The group belted songs as the body of the former star emerged from the cargo compartment, with family and friends breaking down in tears.
A police escort then led a convoy of about 100 cars that accompanied Chigova’s body to a city parlour along Herbert Chitepo Avenue in the capital.
According to a programme released by the family yesterday, the body will be taken to Rufaro Stadium today from 8am to 10:30am for the public to pay its last respects to the beloved former shotstopper, before it is transported to Chivhu later in the day for his burial tomorrow.
Speaking to NewsDay Sport, Mukamba, who played with Chigova from a tender age in the dusty streets of Highfield before they linked up at Dynamos and then at different national team age groups, said he was saddened to lose his best friend.
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“I’m deeply saddened by the passing on of George,” an emotional Mukamba said.
“We grew up together in Highfield and played for the national Under-20 team. We teamed up again at Dynamos and then the senior national team, where we played in different qualifiers together and achieved a lot together.
“There is nothing as saddening as losing a close friend, I'm hurt. George was a good person, shy and quiet. I was shocked when I first received the news of his death. I thought it was a hoax at first, but later realised that it was true.”
Mukamba, who said the team would dedicate their remaining two matches of the season to Chigova, added: “We were very close and we stayed together in South Africa for years before I returned home. I was happy for him that he was playing topflight league in South Africa. He was even worried for me when he heard that I had stopped playing football. He is one of the people who encouraged me not to give up on my career.”
Dynamos play their last league match on Saturday before facing league champions Ngezi Platinum Stars in the Chibuku Super Cup final on December 3.
Mukamba and Chigova also played together in the Under-23 squad under the late Friday Phiri before linking up at DeMbare, where they formed the foundation for the trailblazing side that went on to win four consecutive league titles from 2011.
Mukamba was voted the country’s best player in 2012 before leaving for South Africa and Chigova made it to the list of the 11 best players in the following season, and was immediately snapped up by SuperSport United in South Africa.
Diya, who was the other goalkeeper to make it on the “calendar” that same year, is also heartbroken by the passing on of Chigova, whom he used to share a room with while on national duty.
“I have lost a brother, someone who always encouraged me to do better,” Diya said.
“People thought we were competitors but in truth, we were brothers — more than that, even. We shared almost everything and was always my roommate whenever we went to national team duties together. We used to push each other. We have lost someone who was humble, dedicated and loving.”
Added Diya: “I can’t really put it across in words how George was, but what I can say is this is a big loss to the nation. He was loved by almost everyone and the void which he has left will be difficult to fill. What is more painful is that he died suddenly, but such is life. We will have to be strong for his wife, the kids and his family.”
Mourners are gathered at 1347 Milford Road, Park Town, Waterfalls.
Chigova died in his sleep in South Africa last week due to suspected heart complications.
The giant goalkeeper was diagnosed with a heart ailment in July this year and was even contemplating retirement from the game at the time of his death.
Chigova was renowned for his goalkeeping prowess, having played for 13 seasons in Zimbabwe and South Africa, respectively, turning for big clubs such as SuperSport United and Polokwane City.
He helped the Warriors win the Cosafa Cup in 2018 and was a regular goalkeeper for the team at the 2019 Africa Cup Nations finals in Egypt.