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‘Big Figh’ laid to rest

GOVERNMENT has dedicated a room at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka where profiles of old and current footballers can be exhibited to help fans understand more about Zambia’s football history.
Chief Government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili said there is need to document Zambia’s football history.
Kambwili said Zambia has produced a number of great players whose history needs to be documented so that the future generation could learn from them.
He described former national team coach Fighton Simukonda as an emotional, passionate and talented footballer who hated losing.
Addressing people who gathered at Nchanga Stadium in Chingola yesterday to pay their last respects, Kambwili said Simukonda’s demise has left President Lungu and the Cabinet heartbroken.
Kambwili said Simukonda’s death was a loss not only to his family and the football fraternity but to the nation as a whole.
“This is because of the immense contribution the late Simukonda made to the growth of Zambian football during his glamorous football career spanning over 30 years,” he said.
Kambwili said Simukonda’s desire was to see Zambia emerge victorious in all matches.
“Such is the man we put to rest here today, a football legend and patriot who brought pride and honour to the nation. He has left a gap too wide and too huge to fill,” he said.
Kambwili, who is Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, urged upcoming footballers and coaches to emulate Simukonda in raising Zambia’s football to greater heights.
He pledged Government’s continued commitment to investing in the development of sport, particularly football and making Zambia a football powerhouse on the continent and the world at large.
Kambwili also urged Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) and the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to help Simukonda’s widow Vivien and the children.
“Farewell my love,” was Vivien’s emotional eulogy to her husband.
The casket carrying Simukonda’s body was placed on the pitch under a solemn atmosphere and Vivien said her husband was a master and has left a void that will be difficult to fill.
Vivien said she will miss Simukonda’s companionship and his voice.
She recalled how Simukonda would direct her to prepare jerseys and passport for him whenever he was travelling out of the country.
And Simukonda’s children said their father was a mentor not only to them but others as well.
In a speech read for her by Bradley Chibuye, the children said they will miss Simukonda’s fatherly love.
Simukonda’s granddaughter Agnes Mwewa, 12, said the deceased was full of love and always cared for her and the rest of the family.
Scores of people from all walks of life paid their last respects to Simukonda, who was put to rest at Chingola Central Cemetery.
Business almost came to a standstill in the mining town as people watched in awe when the vehicle carrying Simukonda’s remains passed through the central business district on its way to the cemetery.
And Nchanga Ranger s chairman Yoram Kapai said the club will strive to honour Simukonda.
Kapai said although the club had been robbed of an icon, there was need for the players to soldier on and ensure that they achieve what Simukonda stood for.
“He had a vision to turn Nchanga Rangers into a formidable side and we will fight on for Fighton. We will forever remember him as a great man,” he said.
Zambia Football Coaches Association interim president Danny Kabwe described Simukonda as a humble man who was always open to new ideas.
Kabwe said Simukonda’s vision was to see that the senior national team qualified for the World Cup and that it was the duty of those that had remained to join hands and ensure that the dream becomes a reality.
KCM general manager for sustainability and corporate services Derrick Chilundika pledged the mining firm’s commitment to supporting Rangers to win this year’s league in honour of Simukonda.
FAZ executive committee member Happie Munkondya said Simukonda’s death had left the association in shock.
Zambia Sports Fans Association patron Peter Makembo said the huge gathering at the funeral signifies Simukonda’s humility towards people.
“Soccer fans across the country are devastated by the death of Simukonda who had the heart for football,” Makembo said.
He said Zambia has lost one of its gallant sons who contributed to the development of football.
Several clubs, officials and soccer fans attended Simukonda’s burial.