THE late Highlanders Football Club and Warriors striker Adam Ndlovu was laid to rest on Saturday at the Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo.
A somber atmosphere hung over the city as thousands of people from all walks of life gathered to bury a man described by many at the funeral and elsewhere as a true national sporting hero.
Ndlovu, 42, who was coach for Chicken Inn Football Club, died alongside a young female passanger Nomqhele Tshili, 24, in a horror car crash that injured his young brother, Peter, along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway last Sunday.
Peter attended the funeral in a wheelchair with his feet covered in plasters. His South African pop singer former wife, Sharon Dee, constantly stood by his side.
Political leaders and soccer administrators paid their last respects at a packed church service before the burial.
Education and Sports Minister David Coltart said the country’s soccer fraternity was poorer without Ndlovu, who scored a total of 34 goals for Zimbabwe during his impressive career.
Coltart urged government to honour sports personalities and give them due recognition while they are still alive.
He later twitted: “Main point I made when speaking at Adam Ndlovu’s funeral was that we need to devise a policy to honour sportspersons during their lifetime.
“The same of course goes for our artistic and cultural icons as well. The USA has Halls of Fame. The UK awards knighthoods. Why not Zimbabwe?” Coltart questioned.
There was a push from the general public and political parties including the two MDC formations and Zanu PF’s leadership from Matabeleland, for government to accord Ndlovu national hero status.
Zanu PF’s national headship, however, rejected the request. The party’s Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa described the appeal as “nonsensical and stupid.”
But Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, a Zanu PF official, said at the funeral that although Adam had been denied national recognition, he was a true hero whose record spoke for itself.
“It is not Bulawayo but the whole of Zimbabwe who have declared Adam a national hero, all these people who came here have said it loud and clear that he is a true national hero,” Mpofu said to ovation.
“Honestly this issue where heroism is asked for or requested is a big problem; their deeds should declare them as heroes.
“Right now we know the works of this young man, but we read in the papers where some people talking their will, things that are totally out of context, which I feel is very unfortunate because Adam is a true national hero,” Mpofu said, appearing to take a dig at Mutasa.
Bulawayo Mayor Patrick Thaba Moyo, of the MDC-T, said the city had not hesitated in granting the family’s request for Adam to be interred at Lady Stanley as he had a conspicuous record in the development of sport.
The cemetery is reserved for the city's senior citizens who have contributed towards its development.
Peter, who was behind the wheel of his BMW X5 when it crashed, had tears trickling down during the funeral proceedings, though he tried hard to stay composed.
The Warriors Under-23 coach had a visible scar on his forehead.
At the cemetery, soccer fans broke into song as the casket was lowered into the grave.
Several of Ndlovu's former collegues attended, including Douglas Mloyi, Zenzo Moyo, Netsai Moyo, Ernest Sibanda, Boy Ndlovu, Tobias Mudyambanje, Amini Soma Phiri, Mkhuphali Masuku, Willard Khumalo, Colsen Mabeza, Thabani Masawi, Jerry Sibanda, Peter Nkomo Thulani Ncube, Tito Paketh and Marko Dube.
Others included Paul Gundani, Joel Luphahla, Ian Gorowa, Ronald Sibanda, Callisto Pasuwa, Norman Mapeza, Harlington Shereni, Benjani Mwaruwari, Nelson Bandura, Melody Wafawanaka, Brenna Msiska, Stanford Mutizwa, Nesbert Saruchera, Kennedy Nagoli, Dumisani Mpofu, Masimba Dinyero, Misheck Chidzambwa, Gilbert Mushangazhike, Gift Muzadzi, Lloyd Mutasa, Lloyd Chitembwe and Agent Sawu.