Nkosilathi “Diego” Khumalo

“The Valley of Dry Bones”

Fungai Muderere, recently in Victoria Falls
“THE hand of the Lord was on me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live . . . ?”

The above Biblical scripture of Ezekiel 37v 1-10 is certainly ringing true  in the ears of one Margaret Dhlamini (77) mother to ailing ex Highlanders, Njube Sundowns and Hwange midfielder Nkosilathi “Diego” Khumalo, who in a recent interview with B-Metro said the recovery of his once bed-ridden son was more than a miracle.

“Nkosi was dead. We had given up on him, even the hospital staff at Victoria Falls hospital had done so. No wonder they recommended home-based care for him. My son was almost gone. There was no joy at all. However, I am thankful to his friends who assisted us a lot. The dry bone has come back to life, a dead man has arisen,” said a soft-spoken Dhlamini, taking time to challenge youths to uphold moral behaviour.

“Nowadays children are fond of making costly mistakes. I really don’t know what really gets into their minds at times. They are just not upright. They abuse alcohol and they don’t sleep . . . Bangamazanga kuphela. They need to change,” said Dhlamini.

The 37-year-old Khumalo, a much travelled midfielder during his playing days has been unwell since his return five years ago from Botswana where he turned out for Extension Gunners. He was admitted to Victoria Falls Hospital for 10 days in September last year and was released to home-based care.

The development compelled Khumalo’s close associates to hold a testimonial match that saw its financial proceeds ($500) being given to Dhlamini as they sought to lend a helping hand in meeting the medical expenses of her son.

“Nkosi’s former teammates at Intundla, his close friend and former teammate at Highlanders Noel Kaseke did a lot.

We once hosted a testimonial match here in Victoria Falls and Nkosi’s mother was the guest of honour.

The match’s financial proceeds ($500) were given to Khumalo’s family to meet medical and other expenses.

However, that was not enough as the family is still facing some problems. After he was discharged from hospital, there was a time when he went to the hospital for 16 consecutive days to get injections and the family had to hire taxis daily,” said ex Zimbabwe Football Association Southern Region chairman Morgen “Gazza” Dube who is the chairman of Highlanders Victoria Falls supporters chapter.

Dube, Diego’s former coach at Intundla, where he spent most of his football years, said Khumalo’s former teammates in the resort town had come up with the idea to raise funds for his medication and general upkeep.

It was not the first time a match has been played in Khumalo’s honour as his former Intundla teammates organised a testimonial for him when he officially hung his boots when he returned from Botswana. Back then his former Intundla colleagues took on a Victoria Falls select made up of players from Division One and two teams at Chinotimba.

Among other challenges that they are facing, Diego’s mother said they had been finding it hard to get some of the prescribed pills. The former player has been developing some itchy sores all over his body and it was their wish to improve his diet.

“He certainly needs an improved diet, we have been struggling to get some of the prescribed pills and it is our wish to have him visit some of the renowned specialist doctors in the country. Funds permitting we will do everything for Nkosi,” said Dhlamini.

Diego also weighed in and said: “Praise God I am now out of hospital. All seems to be well now and I thank my friends for all the support they gave. I’m also grateful to Noel Kaseke who has been with me through thick and thin.

However, my right side of the body is paralysed and I feel so much pain when I am coughing.

“I would have loved to do some menial jobs so that I take care of myself. I was contemplating on applying for a job at Victoria Falls municipality but I think I’m not yet fully fit. All I have is my mother. I am not married and I don’t have children . . .”

Khumalo, an exciting midfielder during his best days, made his Premier Soccer League debut for Mhangura at the age of 18 in 1997. He returned to Victoria Falls the following year where he turned out for Intundla up to 2000 when he left for Kwekwe Cables. He joined Bulawayo giants Highlanders prior to his departure for Albania where he was on the books of Bylis Ballsh and Teuta Durres.

In 2004, Khumalo returned home to join the now defunct Njube Sundowns where he spent two seasons before he left for Botswana to join Extension Gunners.

His plight brings into the spotlight the situation that most retired sportspersons in the country find themselves in once their playing careers are over where they struggle for survival.