Highlanders Football Club and Warriors legend, Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, has died.
According to a senior Highlanders executive member, Khumalo who was receiving treatment for diabetes at a local hospital, died late Saturday night.
The executive member said the death of the soccer icon has devastated Highlanders and the whole country.
Family members were not reachable for comment Sunday.
One of his closest friends, radio personality Ezra ‘Tshisa’ Sibanda posted a message on Facebook saying her is saddened by the death of Khumalo, who started his soccer career in the 1980s when he was still a school boy at Northlea High School in Bulawayo.
The message read in part, “Highlanders & Zimbabwe legendary footballer Willard Mashinkila "Nduna" Khumalo's death has ripped my heart out. Utterly devastated about hearing the sad news about Mawie, my friend and brother. I was lucky to be friends with him and being part of his family since the days when he was my senior at Northlea High School in Bulawayo, sad, sad, sad day!”
“Mawie's death has unified a nation in grief, extending beyond the footballing world to the grounds of Mzilikazi where he grew up. Since last night when news broke out, messages of sympathy and condolence to the family of Willard are all over social media, as tributes continue to flood in from all over the globe, a clear testimony he was adored by many people.”
He noted that Mawie or Nduna, as he was affectionately known by fans in Zimbabwe, is one of the reasons Highlanders is “arguably the biggest and most supported team in the country.
“His rare talent together with that of the golden generation of stars including the late Rambo (Mercedes Sibanda) made people love and support Bosso, it was football made easy. They cleaned all major domestic trophies with Highlanders dominating Zimbabwe football during their time before he left to play in Germany.
“He was simply natural, natural performer of the highest quality. One of the all-time greats in Zimbabwe football. He remains one of the best defensive midfielders ever produced in Zimbabwe and would have fitted in any English Premiership team easily, had the scouts spotted him during his peak,” wrote Sibanda.
He further said, “I will always think of him as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart.”
Khumalo, who was a star in the late German coach Reinhard Fabisch’s Warriors Dream Team, coached and managed Highlanders Football Club and played for a Bosso legends social soccer team, Mzilikazi Pirates.