It was very touching to watch former Warriors and Kaizer Chiefs star Khama Billiat overcome with grief and break down in tears as he delivered a eulogy at the funeral service for his friend and ex-national teammate George Chigova at Rufaro Stadium yesterday.
The former Dynamos goalkeeper died in his sleep at his home in South Africa last week due to heart complications, leaving behind his wife Noku and three daughters.
His body was flown into the country on Wednesday morning and was received by hundreds of people, including family members, relatives, former and current players, and other football officials.
Yesterday, there was a funeral procession at Rufaro Stadium, where Chigova made his name before moving to South Africa.
Supporters, family, friends, Chigova’s former colleagues, officials from Dynamos, Footballers Union of Zimbabwe, Zifa and the Premier Soccer League thronged the Mbare Stadium to pay their last respects to the departed soul.
Billiat who had a close bond with Chigova having started their careers together at Aces Youth Academy when they were kids, flew into the country yesterday and was part of the crowd at Rufaro.
He spoke about their friendship with George and he said “he never imagined that he would bury George.”
“I just want to thank everyone for coming to support George today,” Billiat said to the crowd and was met with thunderous applause from the audience as he struggled with his emotions and had to pause a bit.
With a shaky voice, Billiat continued, “I don’t have many words, but just to say rest in peace, George. I never thought that I would give a speech at George’s funeral… that I would bury George. Rest easy George and you must know that we will love you until we meet again,” he added as he was comforted by Aces Youth Academy director Nigel Munyati.
Munyati who groomed the goalkeeper at his academy described Chigova as a unique player.
“I used to call him a gentle giant,” he said.
Other speakers including former Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare, Premier Soccer League CEO Kenny Ndebele, Footballers Union of Zimbabwe and Dynamos chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze also gave moving eulogies to Chigova.
“We are proud of what George did in his career. We are saddened but we hope his works will continue to inspire other goalkeepers in the country,” Mashingaidze said.
Zifa Normalisation Committee member Rosemary Mugadza said, “Our sincere condolences go to the Chigova family. We are poorer without him but are grateful for the 32 years we spent with George.”
Zifa also read to the crowd a condolence message from Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
After the procession, Chigova’s body was taken to Chivhu for burial which is set for this morning.
The giant goalkeeper was renowned for his goalkeeping prowess, having played for 13 seasons in Zimbabwe and South Africa. He played for big clubs such as Dynamos, SuperSport United and Polokwane City.
Chigova helped the Warriors win the Cosafa Cup in 2018 and was voted the best goalkeeper of the tournament. He was also the Warriors’ first-choice keeper at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.