Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIFA have leapt to the aid of Zimbabwe football legend George Shaya, with a financial package — and the establishment of a medical fund — to help the five-time Soccer Star of the Year who has hit hard times and is suffering from dementia.
In a landmark development, in which the country’s football controlling body intends to ensure that the welfare of the game’s former stars is secured, ZIFA got the ball rolling yesterday by unveiling the George Shaya Benefit Fund.
The football mother body will invest an initial $3 000 into the fund to help the legendary Dynamos forward, who turns 70 this year, meet his medical bills and his general welfare.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa personally donated $300 to Shaya at his home in Harare’s Glen Norah A high-density suburb to help the former footballer’s family while the process to set up the benefit fund is being finalised. Chiyangwa was accompanied by the ZIFA board member in charge of finance Philemon Machana and Northern Region vice-chairman Martin Kweza during his visit to Shaya’s home.
“George Shaya is the ultimate football hero when it comes to this country and it will be an indictment on my leadership as the head of football in this country if we don’t help a person like the Mastermind,” said Chiyangwa.
“As an association we felt it was important that we play a leading role in ensuring that someone like George Shaya gets the help he badly wants right now.
“This isn’t an ordinary footballer, but one who took this game to a new level during his playing days, delighting us at a time when we were fans, and it would be wrong for football to be seen as if it is turning it’s back on such a legend.
“A sporting discipline that doesn’t take care of its heroes when they fall on hard times needs to look at itself in the mirror because that is not the way we should run our affairs.
“For us this is just a start and we hope to make this a very big thing because we have to make a difference to the way football was run in this country.”
Chiyangwa said he also talked with Dynamos board chairman Bernard Lusengo Marriot before venturing on his trip to Glen Norah to unveil the package to help Shaya.
“Obviously, l had to engage Marriot so that he sees the vision that we have because Shaya is a Zimbabwean football legend. His roots are at Dynamos and that is his family,” said Chiyangwa.
“There have been some issues that have come out in the papers saying there are some leadership questions at Dynamos and we didn’t want to be seen to be getting into that sphere.
“The good thing is that Marriot was very supportive of what we have done and we also hope that by doing what we have done we have also played a part in easing whatever tensions were there at the club and they can also move in one direction because unity is important for a club like Dynamos.”
Chiyangwa said the George Shaya Benefit Fund will see a medical aid package being organised for the former football star.
“The medical package should ensure that Shaya has the facility to get the medicine he needs at any time,” said Chiyangwa.
Shaya’s wife Agnes, who has been married to the football legend since 1977, said the family has been having a tough time and thanked ZIFA for coming on board to help them.
“I wanted to come to your office Mr Chiyangwa at one stage, but l couldn’t get the guts to do that,” she said.
“We have been having a tough time here and we even didn’t have money to buy the medicine he needs and other basics that we need at home.
“I hope God will bless you for what you have done because l was always questioning myself as to why football had turned its back on us.
“My spirits have been cheered now and today we can even buy some meat for our dinner, something we have never had the luxury to do for a long time now.”
Shaya’s condition means he easily forgets events and the legendary footballer has no means of income after retiring from his job at Toyota Zimbabwe. His only child has been away in Cap0e Town, South Africa, for some time.