13 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Makanaky - a Hero Remembered

Mbabane, Swaziland — TODAY marks 14 years since Benjamin "Makanaky" Nkonjera died at Princess Margaret Memorial Clinic in Bulawayo.

That the Warriors will play Egypt in a World Cup qualifier this month will bring back a flood of memories of the days when Nkonjera dominated the midfield, in the colours of his nation, in such epic battles.

It was in Cairo, in a World Cup qualifier in '93, that Nkonjera showed his true colours with a dominant display that would earn him legendary status.

Just like most of the players, which coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels has drafted for this assignment, Nkonjera was a young man when he turned on the show in Cairo.

It was also in this city that Nkonjera had come to the fore when playing for the Young Warriors in the All-Africa Games in 1991.

Two years later, a youthful Nkonjera stood in the middle of the park, before more than 100 000 fans, to turn on a heroic show in a losing cause against the Pharaohs.

When the result was nullified, because of crowd trouble, and a replay ordered in Lyon, France, Nkonjera was again outstanding as the Warriors battled to a goalless draw that gave them a ticket to the last qualifying round for the '94 World Cup.

But did football forget Benjy?


Only his childhood friend, Peter Ndlovu, appears to remember the superstar and named his son Benjamin. Two years ago, Ephraim Chawanda, a captain of the Dream Team, said coach Reinhard Fabisch regarded Nkonjera highly.

"Although he was proud and fond of all his players, the one he loved most was Benjamin Nkonjera, both as a footballer and a person," said Chawanda.

"When he first saw him as a young player he knew straight way he was a great talent and wanted him on his side." Former Dynamos, Zimbabwe Saints and Amazulu midfielder, Ronald Gidiza Sibanda, rated Nkonjera as one of the best midfielders the country has produced.

"The late Benjamin Nkonjera was a complete player. He was a midfield genius who easily adjusted to any situation, regardless of the stage," said Sibanda.

"The country will struggle to fill the void he left."

Football fan, Yassine Dandaura, on one of the tribute pages, said Nkonjera was a special talent.

"When I first met him, he was with Peter and I thought they were brothers, dedicated, committed and disciplined.

"He was best midfielder ever produced in Zimbabwe," said Dandaura.Lawrence Maphosa, who has one of the best football statistics' banks in the country, shared some of the highlights which included the highs and lows. In 1999 in January he scored the only goal in the friendly win against Malawi just about two months before his untimely death," said Maphosa.

"I remember when Peter scored in August 1999 he had a T-shirt in memory of Nkonjera.

"In 1998 Benjy scored an own goal in a Cosafa match against Lesotho.

"He went on to make amends by scoring for Zimbabwe with Lesotho's Tsonyane scoring an own goal.

"He captained Bosso in 1994 before he went to play for SC Kriens in Switzerland, captained Amazulu and briefly the Warriors."

Nkonjera like Adam and Peter, was a product of the Highlanders' vibrant junior policy.

The midfielder was left in the custody of the Ndlovu family when his parents left for Malawi.

He moved to SC Kriens with Adamski. He died on the 13th of March 1999 and was buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery, close to Mzilikazi High School and Barbourfields.

It's the same cemetery where Dream Team members -- Adamski, Mercedes "Rambo" Sibanda, Melusi Nkiwane and Makheyi Nyathi -- also rest today.

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