By GODKNOWS MATARUTSE

CAPS United’s Class of 1996 led the way in paying glowing tributes to their championship winning coach Steve “The Dude” Kwashi, who died on Monday.

Kwashi, who led Makepekepe to the 1996 championship as well as the Charity Shield, BP Cup and the Independence Trophy, died at home in the early hours of Monday morning due to Covid-19 complications.

He was 67 and survived by his wife, seven children Farai, Shungu, Victoria, Josephine, Tostao, Ngoni, Kuda and several grandchildren.

Tostao, who also played under father at Makapekepe, said the family has been devastated following his death after he failed to recover despite being on ventilator having diagnosed of Covid-19.

“It hurts to lose one of your own. We are devastated as a family. We tried all we could but God had other plans for him,” Kwashi told the Daily News.

“He was on ventilator for the past few days and was also taking some medication but he couldn’t make it. We are currently running around to organise for his burial. It has to be as quickly as possible as per the Covid-19 protocols.”

For the past two decades, Kwashi has had to rely largely upon his family for support having been down with permanent physical disabilities he sustained when he was involved in a horrific road accident in 2001 when they were returning from a premiership match in Hwange.

Mourners at the burial of Steve Kwashi, a football legend and decorated coach.

Kwashi’s protégées and friends expressed shock and sadness over his death describing him as a legend.

Kwashi’s all-conquering squad included talented players such as Joe Mugabe, Frank Nyamukuta, Alois Bunjira, Morgan Nkathazo, Stewart Murisa, Albert Mabika, Mpumelelo Dzowa, George Mudiwa, Cheche Billiat and Lloyd Chitembwe among others.

And Murisa, who was duly named the 1996 Soccer Star of the Year after his scintillating performances under Kwashi, says he was still yet to come to terms with his the death.

“He was like a father to me and that is the reason why he managed to get the best out of me. He was great coach. I would rate as one of the best coaches that I have worked under,” Murisa told the Daily News.

“You just need to look at his achievements. It was not a fluke. He knew the game inside out. He always wanted the best out of his players and the results were there for everyone to see. I’m still in shock, I’m devastated. He was a legend.”

Former CAPS United president Twine Phiri described how close he worked with Kwashi and his unwavering passion for the game.

“I’m broken, I’m really hurt,” Phiri said.

Mourners pay their last respects to Steve Kwashi, who died on Monday morning.

“These are the guys who taught me football when I came in. He taught me how to manage football as well as players. He helped me to mature in football. He was very helpful to me and nit hurts that today we have lost a person like him.  

“It’s sad we continue losing people with institutional memory. When I came I retained him back to work with Antony Kambani.

“He had an eye for talent and would cast his net wide in scouting players. He would tell you of a player in Gwanda or Beitbridge. When I arrived he told me about Francis Chandida, who was in Zvishavane. I’m not surprised he would blend players from all over the country.

“He loved the game and worked with a lot of people in identifying talent.”

Phiri continued: “He was also a fighter. He survived for 20 years after that accident outside Chegutui when they were coming from Hwange. He went in a comma for six months. We remember him always.”

Former CAPS United forward Alois Bunjira, who was also an integral member of the 1996 squad, expressed sadness at the passing of Kwashi.

“It is really sad that we have lost bla Steve ,our coach ,our mentor and father,” Bunjira said.

“He was a great influence in my career and obviously helped in the direction my career took. I had wonderful moments with him, laughing, joking, advice and above all working together and winning so many trophies.

“Great coach he was, who allowed me to express myself on the field and even allowing me to be naughty and dribble everyone. We would laugh about it after matches and that made me fearless and allowed me to develop as a player.

“I will forever be grateful for his contribution in my life and career. He will be sadly missed.”

CAPS United president Farai Jere said: “Kwashi will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of the CAPS United family.”

“He was the first coach to lead us to a league championship, after Independence, in 1996 when he led probably a steamrolling CAPS Utd side whose attacking and beautiful football was way ahead of that time.

“They say it’s never easy to manage a team of stars but Kwashi found a way to do it with authority and came up with a very efficient Green Machine which went beyond all the others in the independence era.

Steve Kwashi was buried in Harare on Tuesday.

“After years of living in the shadow of our great rivals Dynamos, who were winning league title after league title, while we were the Cup-winning specialists, now we could stand in the same winners’ enclosure as league champions and it was a very proud moment for everyone connected with CAPS United.

“For some of us, who came to become the team leaders and won the league championship in 2004 and 2005 and 2016, there is no secret that we built that success story on the strong foundation laid by Bla Steve.

“He will always be a CAPS United hero and he was a humble gentleman who was a football man through and through from his days at Zimbabwe Saints to his days at Black Aces before he arrived at CAPS United.

“He also had passion of working with the youth and his Young Warriors did well to qualify for the African Under-17 championships in Guinea in 1999 where some of the future stars of the game, like Michael Essien, took part.”

Kwashi also won the title with Black Aces in 1992 before he went on to join the Green Machine. – Daily News