2 months on, Simba Bhora and the Shamva community yet to come to terms with Mushunje’s death

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The 7th of June 2022 will forever be remembered as a dark day for anyone affiliated with Simba Bhora, a Shamva-based ambitious Northern Region Division One side.

What started as a normal day for the Arthur Tutani-coached side, who are chasing promotion into the Premier Soccer League, ended in tragedy.

One of their star players, Barnabas Mushunje, who had joined them from Dynamos a few months earlier, tragically died in a car accident.

He died at Parirenyatwa Hospital from injuries sustained in a car crash, when a pirate Honda, in which he was a passenger, rammed into a tractor along the Harare-Shamva road, plunging the local football fraternity into mourning.

A talkative fellow who always cracked jokes in his mother language Shona, Mushunje was coming from a relative’s funeral when the tragedy occurred.

The former Ngezi Platinum midfielder, who was 24 at the time of his death, was enjoying the form of his life when disaster struck through circumstances his teammates have still not comprehended, two months on.

“You know death from an accident is painful,” one of Mushunje’s teammates Ronald ‘Rooney’ Chitiyo told Soccer24 holding back tears.

“After having played with your teammate the previous week, while fit and strong, hearing about his death is shocking and painful.”

Chitiyo, a former Zimbabwe international, said they lost a special player who could change the complexion of the game in a blink of an eye.

“We lost a special player, whose individual brilliance could easily make a difference without requiring a clear-cut chance,” he said.

Brighton Tuwaya, Simba Bhora captain, said they were told of the news late afternoon just after they had finished training.

“After hearing the news, we reassured each other that he will be fine because at that point we were not sure of the extent of his injuries,” the veteran defender recalls.

“We even prayed for him, for God to intervene, because we were worried. Then in the evening, we got the news, that he had passed on.”

Tuwaya said Mushunje was a special player capable of doing the unthinkable during tightly-contested games.

“As a team, we miss him and so does the Shamva community. There are times when we feel certain games would have been different if he was still around,” he says, adding that Mushunje’s death was devasting and his teammates had sleepless nights.

Fans who attended Simba Bhora’s league match against Chinhoyi Stars at Wadzanai Stadium in Shamva yesterday wore shirts with Mushunje’s picture in remembrance of the late midfielder. 

He is still one of their own.

Noah Ndombo, Simba Bhora Supporters chairman, says they were still in shock.

“Death robbed us of him in the most painful circumstances. It is hard to believe he is really gone and gone forever,” Ndombo said, adding that it is hard to find a top-class player that can replace Mushunje.

Mushunje might be gone but some of his teammates are still suffering from the psychological effects of his death.

“Tinashe Balakasi’s form has declined,” said Simba Bhora team manager Paul Ndombo about Balakasi, Mushunje’s teammate, roommate and close friend, who was on a free-scoring spree when the tragic accident occurred. 

“I believe the tragedy greatly affected him,” he said.

For the team and its management, they are putting their hopes on the veteran trio of Tuwaya, Chitiyo and Ali Sadiki to lead their quest for promotion into the Premier Soccer League. 

“The void he left will be difficult to fill, hopefully, Tuwaya, Rooney (Chitiyo) and Sadiki, will propel us to the Premier Soccer League but still, Barna is irreplaceable,” said the team manager. 

Gone but certainly not forgotten.