BY BLESSING GUMISO
I WAS shocked and devastated when I got the news that Charles Chilufya was no more and had died on Sunday [last week] morning from former Railstars and Zambian player Anderson Phiri.
I couldn’t believe the news and kept on asking Phiri if what he was saying was true and indeed it was. I could not stomach the news and I immediately called Richard Choruma who is also based in South Africa where I am and we played together at Highlanders with Chief [Chilufya]. Choruma was taken aback as well and he had to confirm with Chewe Mulenga and Kelvin Kaindu in Zambia and that was when it stuck in.
We then circulated the news on the Bosso Legends WhatsApp group. It’s sad that we could not travel to Zambia to bury our colleague but we managed to raise some funds which we sent to Zambia and guys there who used to play in Zimbabwe represented us that side.
We really would have wanted to go to Zambia and bid farewell to our former teammate at Highlanders.
Charles was one of the greatest midfielders I played alongside. He had a die-hard attitude and that was his number one strength. I remember even when we were down during a match he would approach me and say “Mafana, Mafana [Young Man, Young Man]”, these things happen in football don’t worry we are going to win.”
I joined Highlanders in 1998-99 thereabout and Charles joined us in 2000. I remember I won four league titles with Bosso, which means Charles won three. I remember the days, especially when we travelled to play away; at the back seat of the bus it would be me, Choruma, Lunga [Gift Jnr], [Joel] Ngodzo and Chilufya. I miss those days. It is unfortunate that we are dying young.
Charles loved Splash music and I remember when we were travelling you would hear him shouting to [coach] Rahman Gumbo or [manager] Ernest Maphepha who would be at the front to take off whatever music would be playing on the bus radio and he would rather have his favourite splash songs.
In camp, Charles would cracked jokes in broken Ndebele and kept everyone in stiches. He would constantly ask me how I won balls from opponents and I told him it came as a natural skill and when I asked him how he was able to pack those powerful shots he would say: “Its hard work young man.”
At training he would call a few players to do extra work after the official session and remind the guys that we drank a lot of alcohol so we should return to our fitness levels.
Before Chief came on board at Highlanders, Maphepha approached me and said I’m bringing in someone to complement you guys and you know as players we know each other and I had played against Chief before he came to Highlanders. When I asked Maphepha who was joining us and he said it was Chilufya, I was more than excited and when Chief joined our midfield combination, the rest was history.
Chilufya was a jolly good fellow, always jovial but a hard worker and when at times I refused to do his extra work he would chide me and say; “Young Man, you are now in comfort zone in that defensive midfield position.
When I left Highlanders to join Sporting Lions in 2002, he followed me there after his short stint in Albania. That is how close we were.
I won’t mention names, but Charles mixed easily with everyone from players, the coaches and even management. I was very close to him during our time at Highlanders; a very joyous character. I will miss Charles.
May his soul rest in peace