BY COSMAS ZULU
I KNEW Barry Daka (pictured below) from the 1970s when he was playing for Highlanders and I was playing for Eastlands in Bulawayo.
In 1977 we were at Olympics together where I played as a striker and he played behind me in midfield. He knew the kind of passes I loved and I remember we played against Hwange at the Colliery in 1978 and I scored a hat-trick against one of the best goalkeepers Phosani Sibanda.
Barry provided the assists. I later moved to Zimbabwe Saints, but we remained friends as we stayed in the same locality in Barbourfields and we used to do road runs together and we would go to a ground near Mbuyazwe flats where we would practise our football.
Our Highlanders union started in 1983 after I had played at the club from 1980. The then coach Bobby Clark approached me and said he was about to leave and wanted me to coach because he wanted to impart the knowledge he had to someone for the club’s benefit.
Lawrence Phiri had stepped down as Clark’s assistant. I was disappointed at first because I was still playing, but later agreed and at the time, we promoted a number of young men, namely Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo, Netsai Moyo, Mercedes Sibanda, Douglas Mloyi, Fanuel Ncube, Alexander Maseko and the likes, and that team lost a number of games and we thought we were going to be relegated.
But the boys matured, won all their remaining 13 games and we survived. Clark left for Scotland in 1984 and I was inexperienced to take over the team and I suggested Barry because I knew he had acquired some coaching certificates while he was at Hwange, but the Highlanders leadership resisted because at one time Barry had dumped the club with a number of other players to establish Olympics.
They later agreed and Barry came on board as head coach and he said he was not going to change the style of play we had under Clark and we won a number of trophies that included the BAT Rosebowl (1985) and in 1986 we won all the silverware that was on offer and more trophies in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
In 1990 we won the league title and the Zifa Natbrew Cup and proceeded to the second round of the Caf Champions League.
We returned home and won the Natbrew Cup and Africa Day Trophy in 1992, the league the following year and the BP Trophy in 1994.
All these years we were together almost daily discussing football on a daily basis up to 9pm because were like neighbours in BF. We were together for two decades, went to camp together. Even our families were close.
The most adorable and unique thing about Barry, who we called Ghost, Chambuks or Bhibhiza, is that he was soft-spoken, very humble and never insulted anyone or became violent to anyone. He endeared himself with the boys by speaking with them in the township slang, which they used.
He then went to Botswana and when he came back, he would still watch Highlanders games when I had been brought to rescue the situation a few years ago with Amin Soma (Phiri), and Barry would come to my flat to give me advice.
This is how it was like between me and Barry.
We talked football, ate football, drank football and slept football. We would sit and listen to Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Louis Armstrong, but when he came back from Botswana he was a different man and wanted us to talk more about the Bible and Christianity and he would insist on us praying every time.
His death has been a big loss to his family, to football and me as we spent half a century in football together. I am hurt because after contributing so much to football in the country, Barry died without getting any honour, but the most important thing to me and that makes me happy is that he died a Christian. As a Christian myself, that consoles me abundantly.
May his soul rest in peace.
l Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu is an ex-Highlanders player and coach.