Thousands pay last respects to soccer star

Frank Maponya

Frank Maponya

Thousands of mourners gathered in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, at the weekend to pay their final respects to the country's international soccer player, Fernando Matola. and his wife and children

Matola, who was captain of Black Leopards, died in a car accident in South Africa two weeks ago.

He died with his wife and two children when he lost control of his car and hit a tree on the Tzaneen-Lydenburg road on September 2.

He was on his way home to represent his country in the Ghana 2008 Afcon qualifier against Tanzania the following weekend.

The Black Leopards skppper was buried in a dignified funeral at the Hlanguene cemetery on Saturday.

The emotionally-charged service was held at the Independent Square, with multitudes of mourners in attendance.

Among other dignitaries who attended the proceedings was the country's president, Armondo Guebuza, veteran South African soccer administrator Leepile Taunyane, Lidoda Duvha boss David Thidiela, Dynamos boss Pat Malabela, and a host of officials from the Limpopo government.

Lidoda Duvha players could, howver, not attend the funeral. Brand manager Tshifhiwa Thidiela said this was because the league had declined their request to have their fixtures postponed.

Speakers spoke fondly of Nando, as Matola was affectionately known.

They referred to him as a hero who died in the line of duty.

Taunyane said it was encouraging to see South Africans coming in large numbers to support the families who have lost their loved ones.