18 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Chunga in Tears

MOSES Chunga was feted like a king by his old Belgian club Eendracht Aalst, at a homecoming show that left the legendary footballer in tears on a Black Sunday for Zimbabwean football.

The tragic events back home, where his former Warriors' teammate Adam Ndlovu was killed in a horror car crash that left his younger brother Peter badly injured, meant that a dark cloud hovered over Chunga's return to E Aalst for the first time in 20 years.

The former Warriors skipper was given a standing ovation at the Pierre Cornelisstadion, the stadium he graced for five years with distinction, both as an exceptional player and leader of the club.

Chunga, who left Harare on Saturday night, arrived at the Pierre Cornelisstadion just 15 minutes before the league match against Royal Antwerp.

And he was so moved by the way the fans reacted to his presence at the stadium, he could not hold back tears.

His arrival appeared to breathe life into the E Aalst players who powered their way to a 2-1 victory.

The E Aalst fans unveiled a huge banner inscribed, "Welcome Home Moses", and the Zimbabwe international was led onto the centre of the pitch by club officials as cheering fans screamed his name from the stands.

In a short speech, Chunga told the delirious fans:

"You have been behind me over the years and I know you care for me. I thank you."

Chunga told the fans it was a dream come true for him to return to E Aalst, the club that gave him his break into European football.

E Aalst have since uploaded a video, on YouTube, about Chunga's homecoming show and it starts with the message, "Welcome Home Moses", features the former Warriors skipper addressing the fans and then closes with the message, "We Love You Forever".

In the background the fans can be heard cheering: "Chunga, Chunga, Chunga!"

E Aalst said on their official website that Chunga was moved by the way the fans embraced him, on his return to the club, he could not hold back tears.

The Dynamos legend was joined by his former teammates, Hans De Writer, Wim De Wolf, Theo Zakkas and Jules Mandiangu, and told E Aalst he was delighted that his return had coincided with a big victory for the club.

Zimbabwe international midfielder, Honour Gombami, who plays for Royal Antwerp, featured in the match on Sunday, which his side lost to E Aalst.

"The E Aalst fans visibly enjoyed Moses Chunga's presence and this revived memories of his time here," the club said on their website.

"Chunga signed scores of autographs and he paraded for photo shoots with a number of the supporters next to the club's official fan shop.

"The evening ended with Moses having dinner, with his old teammates, at a Greek restaurant."

Chunga, who will be in Belgium for 10 days, is scheduled to attend E Aalst's next match against Eupen, at home tomorrow, and will also travel for the away match against Roeselare, on Saturday, as part of the club's official delegation.

E Aalst had announced on Saturday that Chunga would be driven straight from the airport to the stadium.

The Belgian club's president, Frank de Rosse, hailed Chunga as one of the greatest players to ever don their colours and said his exploits on the field were still being discussed by their fans -- about 20 years after he last kicked a ball for them.

E Aalst are now playing in Belgium's Second Division after surviving a tempting period in which they plunged into liquidation and are honouring Chunga for his services to the club.

De Rosse described Chunga as "one of the best players who has ever played for our team Eendracht Aalst," in is invitation letter.

"We are happy that the Consulate of the Kingdom of Belgium in Harare has brought us into contact. We trust that you're well," De Rosse wrote.

"On behalf of the Board of Directors of your former club, Eendracht Aalst, we would like to invite you to come back once to give the kick-off of a home game this season.

"Since last season we invite for every home game a former player. The fans, still in great numbers, appreciate it enormously.

"It will be an honour to welcome you back in Aalst after all those years. You are still one of the best players who has ever played for our team Eendracht Aalst. The fans still talk about you after more than 20 years."

Last night, Chunga said he had been touched by the way the E Aalst fans and officials had welcomed him back and he will try to use his 10 days in Belgium to explore opportunities to develop Zimbabwean football.

The former Warriors skipper said his thoughts were with the Ndlovu family, who are very close to him, and expressed shock at the untimely death of his old national teammate, Adam, in a car crash near the Victoria Falls International Airport on Sunday morning.

Peter Ndlovu, widely acknowledged to be the greatest Warrior of all-time, somehow escaped with his life after his BMW X5 veered off the road and crashed at the 417km peg, near Lipinyu Business Centre, on the Bulawayo/Victoria Falls highway.

Chunga teamed up with the Ndlovu brothers, during the qualifying battle for the '92 Nations Cup finals, with the Dynamos legend being used as the playmaker with Adam and Peter roaming the forward line.

"Words cannot describe what I feel right now because Adam and Peter were my younger brothers and we did so many things together as players and as friends," said Chunga.

"It's sad that Adam has died so young and in such tragic circumstances because he was showing a lot of potential as a coach and there was no doubt that he was going to be very successful.

"We don't determine our destiny as people and we just have to live with our pain and pray very hard that Peter pulls through and recovers to take his place in our football because he is a very key member of our family."

Chunga was the first Zimbabwean footballer to be signed by a European club, after Independence, and blazed a trail for a host of others who followed, including the Ndlovu brothers, with Peter joining Coventry City in the English Premiership while Adam moved to Switzerland.

"Our public image is that of footballers but beyond that we are normal human beings, parents who also have families to look after, and that is what hurts the most that we have been robbed of a man, at a very young age, whom his family looked up to for everything," said Chunga.

"Those are the people who matter most because the relationship they had with Adam was personal and it cannot be replaced by anyone or anything.

"It's important that Peter recovers, stronger, because his family needs him more now that his brother is no longer with us and we must pray for him to emerge out of all this."

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