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Masekos’ fairytale football romance

FOOTBALL is known for its undisputed power of uniting people of different persuasions, but for Zifa honourary life members Richard and Eusebia Nhlela Maseko, the sport has done more than that.

BY ALBERT MARUFU

The Masekos, who are the only couple in the country to be conferred as honorary members of Zifa, found love through the sport after the two met at a football indaba in 1999.

Since then, the two grey heads have been a perennial feature at Zifa meetings offering words of wisdom that has been acquired over the years in sport administration.

The couple’s football administration CV would make one green with envy. Richard is more experienced, having been involved with the game since the 1960s working with the late John Madzima and also serving successive Zifa boards as finance director from 1980 until his retirement.

Coincidentally, the two think tanks were honoured as life members of Zifa on the same day in 2011 and to date, Eusebia is the only female Zifa life member.

“I lost my first wife in 1995 and met my current wife [Eusebia] in 1999 at a football meeting. We did not know each other and started as friends in football,” said Richard. “I do not remember us dating, but [we] always talked about football matters. I was their [women’s football] adviser.” Talk of office romance.

“We got married in 2002, but only tied the knot in 2006. We all have a passion for football and as you know, behind every successful woman, there is a powerful man,” said a smiling Richard holding his wife’s hand.

His wife, who is a CAF Administration Instructor chipped in: “We are very supportive of each other and my husband is my pillar of strength.”

Football involves a lot of travelling: Does Richard not feel jealous when his wife is on those trips?

“We both share the same passion for football and I know her ambitions so I cannot stand in her way. Of course this comes with the trust that has been built over the years.

“She has travelled a lot and was part of the Zifa delegation that went to Tunisia for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations when Zimbabwe qualified for the first time.

Over the years she has also visited a number of countries on football-related business and that has not bothered me at all,” Richard said.

He added his wife succeeded in football matters because she was committed to the sport.

“I am her advisor, but she has this fighting spirit that is typical of all Nhlela’s. Most of them fought in the liberation struggle and are captains in the army,” he said. His wife chipped in: “I am an activist fighting for the girl child. My dream is to see Zimbabwe being the best team in Africa.

While Eusebia boasts of considerable experience in football administration that saw her rising from being a secretary of Gugulethu FC in 1995 to a provincial secretary before becoming the secretary general of ZWF in 1997, she admits that she pales in comparison with her husband.

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