HARARE – While the CAPS United family are still basking in the glory of their gutsy 1-1 draw with Congolese giants TP Mazembe in the final qualifying round of the Caf Africa Champions league, yesterday, marked 13 years since the death of three of their former players — Blessing “Yogo Yogo” Makunike, Gary Mashoko and Shingirai Alron but sadly the day went by unnoticed.
The trio perished in a car accident along the Harare-Bulawayo highway when the car they were travelling in crashed into a pillar on a bridge near Norton on March 13, 2004.
Makepekepe were travelling from Bulawayo after a league match against Njube Sundowns when midfielder Makunike, forward Alron and left back Mashoko decided to return to Harare in a supporter’s car.
The three players and the two supporters in the vehicle met a gruesome demise as they were burnt to death while trapped in the wreckage following the accident.
Then under Charles Mhlauri, United in 2004, had assembled one of their best squads in years and Makunike, who had just returned from Yugoslavia to rejoin his boyhood club, alongside Leonard Tsipa, the previous season had played outstandingly in the first two games against Black Rhinos and Njude Sundowns.
Defender Mashoko had yet to contribute to United’s cause that year as he was still fighting to be fit owing to a broken ankle he had suffered in a league encounter against Highlanders towards the end of the 2003 soccer season.
Veteran striker Arlon, ironically had also rejoined the Green Machine from Sporting Lions at the start of the 2004 season.
That tragic episode galvanised the remaining Green Machine squad — which included the likes of current head coach Lloyd Chitembwe, Zambians Laughter Chilembe, Ian Bakala, Ashley Rambanepasi, David Sengu, Asani Matora, Artwell Mabhiza, Cephas Chimedza, the late Silent Katumba, Brian Badza among others — into a strong unit that went on to win the league title losing only one match along the way.
However, in the years that have gone by, it seems the entire CAPS United institution has sadly forgotten the ultimate sacrifice Makunike, Mashoko and Alron made for the club.
On Sunday, Makepekepe were in action in the African Champions League final qualifying round first leg when they took on DR Congo giants TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi where they emerged with a famous 1-1 draw.
The club failed to even pay tribute to the three players and the two supporters by even wearing black armbands or T-shirts before kick-off emblazoned with the names of their fallen heroes as a mark of respect.
Makepekepe missed a golden opportunity to put the spotlight on individuals who will always be engraved in the club’s history.
The African Champions League is the premier inter-club competition on the continent and all eyes were on the clash between TP Mazembe and Makepekepe.
By virtue of being five-time African champions, the Ravens’ matches in the competition generate a lot of interest on the continent.
The match was being screened live on DR Congo national television; there were also various links on the Internet that were carrying the live feed of the action from the Stade TP Mazembe.
Those without access to any of the mediums mentioned above were following the match closely via social media.
Would it not have been nice for the entire continent and the rest of the world to have seen a picture of CAPS goalscorer Abbas Amidu celebrating by lifting his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the names of Makunike, Mashoko and Alron?
With the ways images from sporting events are now travelling all over the world via social media such a picture would have grabbed headlines across the globe.
Makepekepe need to borrow a leaf from English football giants Manchester United, who always take every opportunity to remember their players and officials who perished during the Munich air disaster.
Twenty three people died when a British European Airways flight carrying the Red Devils squad crashed soon after take-off at the Munich-Riem Airport, in the then West Germany.
Among those that died were players Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan.
Manchester United were travelling from a European Cup match in Belgrade in the then Yugoslavia against Red Star Belgrade when the plane stopped to refuel in Munich.
Since then, the Red Devils have religiously held a memorial service for the victims on this tragic day in the club’s history.
This year, Manchester United held a memorial ceremony for the victims prior to their Premier League match against Watford.
Fans gathered outside the Theatre of Dreams before kick-off to pay their respects while a minute’s silence was also observed inside the ground and United’s players wore black armbands for the 90 minutes.
Maybe what makes United never forget about this is the fact that at Old Trafford there is a memorial wall for the Munich air disaster where the clock is permanently stopped at 3:04 to mark the time when the crash took place.
Even the current Manchester United stars took time to post messages on social media to remind the rest of the world how the Munich air disaster changed the course of the club’s history.
Juan Mata wrote: “First of all, I’d like to remind you that this Monday, February 6, is a special date for this club and the history of football. It marks the 59th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, which claimed the lives of 23 members of the Manchester United expedition on their way back after a European Cup game.
“This is always a very emotional day, a date to remember and to honour all of them, and also those who strove to respect and praise that legacy. This is one of the reasons that makes this club so special.
There’s no day that you don’t remember that 6 February when walking by Old Trafford. It’s always in our memories.”
However, CAPS do not have a stadium of their own where they can permanently erect a memorial wall so that they will always remember the death of Makunike, Alron and Mashoko.