There is many people still trying to come to terms with the sad loss of the late Highlanders, Zimbabwe Saints and Amazulu, Nqobizitha Maenzanise, a football legend of note, who died at Mpilo Hospital of Bulawayo in the early hours of Monday after a stroke while at work.
It is understandable that few will find words to describe an immensely talented footballer and amazing human being. His contribution to football until he captained the Warriors of Zimbabwe, was always a class act of passion, integrity and skill. Humptey made football look so easy and extremely entertaining by technical antics that dazzled and baffled the opponents.
So unbelievable was his vision and passing that few players in the world can match what he did. He dribbled well and scored amazing goals for his many clubs that included lower non-league teams like Matebeleland High City which he played for in between his careers at Bosso, Chikwata and Usuthu. It is at one of the matches against this team that I had a first personal encounter with him.
As a man, Maenzanise knew what mattered and what he wanted. His stubborn nature was mistaken for mischief. Having started his civil life as a Court Interpreter, he was well aware of the law and the rights, hence he knew when to stand his ground. What many people may not know, is that Humptey did not stand only for his rights, but for others.
I began to interact more with the football maestro at the beginning of my coaching career. What struck me at this level of our dealings was how he suddenly changed calling me, referring to me as 'Topi'. That felt extremely unfair and irregular given his status as a revered national skipper and me, a mere first division coach who he played against as a substitute of a reserve team. Suddenly he would be offering to carry my bags and begin to ask football questions. Those who know the man, you can guess the intelligence of his questions.
Humptey was very inquisitive and provoked thinking in terms never imagined. He never ceased to amaze as he sought to solve football intricacies, some theoretical and others practical. I began to ask him to attend courses, as I always did to former greats like the late Joseph Machingura. Initially, I thought it would be easier for him to finish his playing career before he could get his first coaching qualification. He never waited for that and since football came naturally in his veins, he was by far the best student in his class.
To many who were in his class, his humility became one surprise element of his humanity. He was one man mistaken to be crude and rude until you greeted him and you conversed. So involved and helpful was Humptey that he would be like a ball-boy for the entire 2 week course. It is only at that time that Maenzanise would agree to call me 'Ndex' like everyone else. To put it into perspective, 'Topi' is a term used for seniors and elderly. In many ways, your age-mates never refer to each other with that term, no matter how much different the statuses between the two.
Many will always bear testimony of a humble man who was extremely gifted, loved the football game and had passion to help the youths as well. He was a player who made the job of coaches like Cosmas 'Tsano' Zulu, Philemon 'Fintsho' Dangarembwa and Gibson Homela amongst others, a lot more easier as he understood tactics and was a dead ball specialist of a high calibre.
Rest in peace Humptey!! What a player!!!