CAPS United is green by nature, but March 13 will forever be remembered as a black day by anyone affiliated with the Harare giants.
By Lawrence Mangenje
On this day, in 2004, three Makepepe players; midfield ace Blessing ‘Yogo Yogo’ Makunike, marauding left-back Gary Mashoko, and sure-footed striker Shingi Arlon, died when a car they were traveling in, burst into flames near Norton, along the Harare-Bulawayo road.
Also on board were two supporters of the Green Machine, who died on the spot.
18 years on, the Green Machine family is still traumatized by the tragedy.
Team Manager Shakespeare Chinogwenya, who was the first to arrive on the accident scene, recalls what happened on that fateful day.
“It was so sad that after such a wonderful display of football (in CAPS’ 2-1 win over Njube Sundowns), from Blessing and Shingi. They are the ones who had played since Gary was injured,” remembers Chinogwenya.
“Makunike had a brilliant game that day, which would have him somewhere far but God decided otherwise. Even our opponents acknowledged that he was brilliant.
“I was the first to arrive on the accident scene after receiving a phone call from then-chairman Andy Hodges. I went there with one of our supporters Batsi. To this day, I can still see the flames and bodies of the lads being burnt.
“The police could not even find a way to identify them, I was the one who had to identify them. Yogo Yogo’s entire body was burnt, what was only left were his dreadlocks and we identified him through that. I managed to identify Shingi based on the pants he was wearing because he was wearing that,” recalls an emotional Chinogwenya.
He says they had to identify Mashoko through the mental implant he had in his leg since; he was nursing an injury.
The two fans who were in the car, only identified as Onismor and Hanyere, Chinogwinya remembers, were only identified through the remaining pieces of the green tracksuits they were wearing.
Chinogwinya struggles to forget that horrific accident and says every time he passes by that scene, that vision comes back.
“It was bad, It was a trauma. 18 years on, every time I pass by that bridge, that vision comes back to me vividly. It was a sad day not only for CAPS United but for the football fraternity at large but God had decided.
“We still celebrate their lives, thank you for the chance you gave to remember our heroes and also speak about what happened on that fateful day,” he concluded.
The script of Chinogwinya, as far as remembering that tragedy every time he passes by that scene, reads like that of former CAPS goalkeeper Energy ‘Gokwe’ Murambadoro.
Every time I pass thru the accident spot I make it a point to park and have a moment to just say one or two words, that’s how much I miss the lads,” said Murambadoro.
“Yogo Yogo was the one who mentored me to understand what’s needed to be a professional soccer player. He was from Mutare while I came from Gokwe. Gerry Mashoko was a close friend of mine, and Shingi was like a big brother to me so it’s still painful.”
Former Makepekepe captain David ‘Maketo’ Sengu is still pained by the horror crash, and says it has been 18 years of torture.
“It pains a lot when you wake up in the morning on a Sunday after playing a game of football which you would have won, then you are subjected to shocking news that your teammates are no longer with you, yet you were with them 24 hours earlier,” Sengu said.
“This is a day which pains me a lot, the day we lost Blessing Makunike, Shingi Arlon and Gary Mashoko, as well as two of our most loyal supporters who travelled with us everywhere we went to play.
“It was just two games into the season and if you remember well, Blessing had just returned from Europe, Yugoslavia and was showing signs of maturity and playing a leading role in the team. Gary was nursing a injury from the previous injury while Gary was returning to CAPS United from Sporting Lions,” he recalled.
“As my teammates, I thought we would be together for the whole season, these guys were really important to the team. Blessing had played a blinder of a game against Njube Sundowns. I still can’t believe these guys are gone.”
Sengu urged the CAPS United family to honor the departed heroes.
“I feel CAPS United should do something about the lads, perhaps play a memorial match and raise something and even visit their graveyards as we remember them.”