Soccer fans in the country are mourning the death of Zambia U-23 national team and Nchanga Rangers coach Fighton Simukonda who died yesterday morning at Konkola Mine Hospital after an illness. He was 58.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president, Kalusha Bwalya, said he learnt of the death of Simukonda with a deep sense of sadness and shock and described him as dedicated and hardworking coach.
Simukonda was a member of the illustrious KK Eleven and Nkana Football Club in the eighties who had been battling diabetes for some time and had been in and out of hospital.
Kalusha added that Simukonda was as an honest man who had love for budding talent.
“Big Fighton Simukonda was my team mate in the KK Eleven. He was as honest as they come. Disciplined, sincere and dedicated to football, he was also a humble man as a player and coach.
‘‘Always wanted the best for his team, Simukonda always gave a lot of chances to especially young players because it was his nature to be patient. ‘Big Figh’ is a big loss to Zambian football. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Kalusha said.
“Big Figh” as he was fondly called by many, had an illustrious career both as player and coach. He had a good defensive acumen as a player and was tactically astute as a coach.
“The late Simukonda’s name is engraved in the Zambian Footballing Hall of Fame, starting from Mimbula FC, to a trophy-ridden spell at Nkana to his time at Jomo Cosmos in South Africa.
‘‘His was a legendary life personified by raw passion and dedication. On behalf of the executive, secretariat and indeed on my behalf I pass my condolences to the bereaved family,” he said.
Chipolopolo Soccer Fans Association (CSFA) chairman Yotham Mwanza said the country had lost a coach with a vision, a coach who had the passion to identify talent and nurture it without holding anything back.
“Simukonda was as big in his heart as he was on the field of play. He had the talent and loved his game and always wanted to give the best. The football family has lost a great son,” he said.
Brave Nchanga Rangers FC posted on their website that it was a sad day for Zambia, adding that Simukonda was still young and good at whatever he did.
Zesco United, the 2015 MTN/FAZ league champions, posted on their Facebook page: “It is with sorrow that Zesco United regrets to announce the passing on of its former coach who until the time of his death was U-23 national team coach and Nchanga Rangers coach Fighton Simukonda.”
A sombre mood hang over several football club houses yesterday as administrators, players and football lovers tried to come to terms with the announcement of the passing on of one of the best players and coaches the country has produced. The Zambia Football Coaches Association said they were devastated and in shock over the news of Simukonda’s death while several coaches recalled their days with the versatile coach who tried his best to and got the best from coaching junior players.