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Death robs Zimbabwe sport

by Staff reporter
30 Dec 2018 at 17:32hrs | Views
This year has not been so kind to the Zimbabwean sporting fraternity after three of the country's arguably biggest luminaries took their last breaths.

Former Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) president Paul Chingoka, three-time Commonwealth boxing champion across three divisions Langton "Schoolboy" Tinago and veteran administrator and hockey coach Mark Manolios all passed away within a space of two months.

The local sports fraternity was first plunged into mourning when Chingoka passed away in Harare on July 13 at the age of 67.

Chingoka, who grow up in a sporting family, was at the helm of TZ when Zimbabwe was a competitive force in the Davis Cup World Stage with the Black brothers Wayne and Byron teaming up with Kevin Ullyett.

The sport also grew to penetrate the black community during his reign which saw the rise of the likes of Martin Dzuwa, Gwinyai Tongoona and Genius Chidzikwe to prominence.

A lot of schools in under privileged communities began to offer the sport while community centres also erected tennis courts at the behest of TZ.

While ultimately it is the players that bask in the glory, there is no way the history of tennis in this country can be written without mentioning Chingoka's name.

He transcended the sport during his time at TZ and writing an obituary on behalf of his friend, Nyaradzo Group chief executive officer, Philip Mataranyika was full of praise for Chingoka.

"Zimbabwe's tennis history definitely holds a couple of chapters on Paul's contributions and achievements," Mataranyika wrote.

"Though he is gone, his legacy and the work of his hands live on.

"Paul's death comes at a time in our country when such wisdom and experience would have gone a long way in trying to rebuild a failing sporting culture.

"Hopefully, future administrators can look back to his time and borrow on his ambassadorial qualities that saw him being able to manoeuvre in the international circles and bring back Zimbabwe's sporting glory."

Richmore Murape, one of the coaches to benefit from programmes implemented by Chingoka at TZ, challenged the current crop of sports administrators to follow in his footsteps.

"To be honest it's a big loss to national tennis development at large," Murape said.

"I started working with him as far back as 15 years ago and he introduced a lot to the game of tennis. I am a product of Paul's leadership. I attained most of my qualifications thanks to him.

"During his tenure, the number of local tennis coaches increased.

"He introduced a lot of local competitions like New Winners among others which brought about a lot of good players. You will see that during his time the country got on the map in as far as tennis is concerned.

"Also the game of tennis spread to all corners of the country and it was thanks to Paul's leadership qualities. This is indeed a great loss. I challenge the current leadership at Tennis Zimbabwe to follow in his footsteps."

With the sporting fraternity still to come to terms with Chingoka's death, another tragedy struck barely four days later when the nation learnt of Tinago's death.

Tinago passed away at Gweru General Hospital on July 17 just two months away from his 69th birthday.

He dominated boxing between the 60s and 80s as he raked up 83 wins 16 by KO in 107 professional fights.

Tinago was a trailblazer together with track and field legend Artwell Mandaza were the first truly black sporting stars in the then Rhodesia.

He won the coveted Zimbabwe Sportsperson of the Year award a record three times as he totally dominated the sporting scene at a time when George Shaya was a darling in football.

The only other athlete coming close to match Tinago's feat is former Olympic swimmer and current Sports minister Kirsty Coventry, who won the award twice.

Boxing journalist Gilbert Munetsi clearly summed up Tinago's achievements in this obituary.

"Though he was to take up the sport as a career in 1967, the unfortunate part for him was that the country was under Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and closed to the rest of the world in terms of human activities, this at a time when it mattered most to Tinago's career.

"When national independence came in 1980, and with it, the opening of the world to the country, he was past his prime in terms of age (being in his thirties) and considered old in the sport of boxing. But, as if to defy the odds, this is when his career took its steepest rise," wrote Munetsi  

After ending his time in the ring, Tinago opened Action Boxing Club in Gweru which is the birthplace for careers of some of the best modern day fighters like Edmos Takawira, Chamunorwa "Sting" Gonorenda and Tapiwa "Shotgun" Tembo who owe their careers to Tinago's coaching.

"I'm heartbroken. I don't know what to say. I actually cried because he was my father and a father to everybody," Gonorenda said at the time of Tinago's death.

"This is very hard for me to take but there's nothing I can do everything happens in God's time but he has left a very huge gap. He was a very big inspiration in our lives as boxers because we all wanted to be like him."

To show his tremendous contribution to the sporting fraternity, the government awarded Tinago a Provincial Hero's status.

Another hammer blow was to follow on the local sports fraternity two months later when the erudite administrator Manolios passed away on September 17 in South Africa.

The 78-year-old Manolios suffered a heart failure a few days after undergoing an operation across the Limpopo.

Manolios was the first Prince Edward School pupil to be awarded full colours for his exploits in hockey back in 1957.

"I never quite made it to the very top as a player but I think this helped me because it was really a good learning curve," Manolios said in his last interview with the our sister publication Daily News in 2012.

"It was very good for me because it taught me to understand that there can be no favouritism in sport and in selection, instead you pick the best men for the job."
After calling time on his playing career, he became a renowned umpire and coach.

Manolios officiated in 11 pre-Olympic matches at the 1972 Games, where he sat together with various selectors and coaches, listening to their team talk, which increased his knowledge of the game and helped him in the long term to take up coaching on a full time basis.

He was appointed Zimbabwe men's national coach from 1970 up to 1986. His team enjoyed success in overseas assignments with players such as Gerald Peckover, Marshall Page and Alan Peake forming the backbone of the squad.

At one point the men's team was ranked eighth in the world, winning a bronze medal at an Eight Nations Tournament in the 80s.

Manolios would later turn into a shrewd and committed administrator as he rose from the provincial right up to the national board of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (Zoc) where he served for 26 years.

He was able to achieve of these feats because of the passion he had for anything sport-related.

"I watched sport since I was nine years old, and I remember listening to the 1948 Olympic Games on the radio sitting next door to it in London," Manolios said.

"I used to wait for the newspaper to arrive at around 11 o'clock while I was in Chinhoyi and would start to read it from back to front."

While at Zoc, Manolios witnessed the golden era of the golden girls, who sensationally won a gold medal in hockey at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. He was also present when Coventry won her first gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004.

Manolios was also an astute businessman as he ran a viable sports apparel retail chain which made sporting equipment available to the Zimbabwe public.

These three gentlemen will surely be missed as they have left a huge gap in local sport that will be hard to fill.

Source - dailynews