- Published on 26 January 2015
- Written by dailynews
His wife fears one day he will walk to the shops and forget the way back home, but George Shaya just laughs it off, insisting he is still of sound mind.
Shaya is considered by many to be the greatest Zimbabwean footballer of all time, but he could fail to recollect all those glory years after being diagnosed with dementia last year.
The Dynamos legend is one of 35 million people in the world who live with dementia, a broad category of brain diseases that causes a gradual decrease in the ability to think properly and remember events.
His wife of 38 years, Agnes, says the ailment became evident after the record five-time Soccer Star of the Year was retrenched by Toyota Zimbabwe after three decades of service.
His retirement package, "a generator and a certificate", contributed to his ill health.
Shaya it taking medication to restore some of his mental functions but at 69, there is little hope he will completely heal.
"Obviously it worries me. Sometimes I call him during the day, when I am at work, to ask if he has eaten. He says 'I have.' But I come back only to see the food I would have prepared uneaten. He then says 'I forgot'," Agnes said.
There is never a dull moment around Shaya, and he is quick to jump to his own defence.
"Aiwa, vanhu vanenge vauya ka, tinenge tichataura tiri panze" (no, visitors would have come, we will be discussing outside)," he says.
To which his wife retorts.
"He doesn't forget things that happened way back but what he did yesterday he can forget. Physically he is all right. There is no spot that's hurting him. Kukanganwa chete ndo dabudziko (it's just that he forgets a lot)."
It is this writer's second visit to Shaya's home in the high-density suburb of Glen Norah in as many weeks.
The Mastermind – as he was known in his pomp – does not seem to recall the first meeting having taken place.
"Do you remember that he came?" his wife enquires.
"When was that?" Shaya asks.
Agnes says Shaya's penchant for drink has also greatly contributed to his health issues, but is happy now that Zimbabwe's crown prince of football has since cut down on the beer.
"I realised that when he is at the shops he drinks a lot," she says.
"The doctors said he should cut on the alcohol. I am at least glad that if he is here at home he drinks just one or two beers. The biggest problem for him is to stop smoking."
The former Dynamos chairman, however, does not seem deterred by his wife's warning and even as she speaks, he plucks a Kingsgate cigarette from a 20-pack lying on the table.
It is his third of the day judging by fresh stubs in the ash tray.
"Others finish this 20 Kingsgate box in one day but I will finish this one tomorrow," he says.
Agnes, a 64-year-old nurse by profession, is employed full time and takes care of the family.
She worries that with no caregiver to help make her husband feel comfortable while she is away at work, his condition may deteriorate.
"Of late Freddy Mkwesha was coming to take him. He has a take-away at Raylton Sports Club. He used to pick him up every day. I had seen a change because he would spend his day chit-chatting with people," she says.
Mkwesha is the first black Zimbabwean to play professional football in Europe after he signed for Sporting de Bragga in 1966.
His friendship with Shaya dates back to the 1960s with both players having played for Dynamos after the club was established in 1963.
"Unfortunately Mkwesha is not also feeling well these days. He is down with diabetes so it has been over a month without him (Shaya) going to Raylton. If he finds something do, whilst talking to people, I see him improving," she says.
A pure-bred Dynamos son, Shaya spearheaded the Glamour Boys at a time when the club was considered more than just a football club but a political force that stood as a symbol of black pride and resistance to white minority rule in pre-Independent Zimbabwe.
Shaya continues to be hailed by former opposition, teammates and critics alike as the greatest footballer to ever run onto a football pitch in this country.
He, however, fears the club that gave him fame but no fortune is fast fading into obscurity in the hands of what he terms "mafikizolos."
"Yes we do meet as founder members here and there but it's erratic," he says.
"The plan was to change Dynamos Football Club into a holding company. It's far much better to make it a company because you don't have too many people pocking their noses in Dynamos.
"Let's register Dynamos as a private company and then we can take it from there. It hasn't materialized because there has been an emergence of ana mafikizolo," he says.
He says individuals who claim to have Dynamos at heart "have no vision for the club," and that the team has nothing to show for its overwhelming popularity and proud history.
"Surely to look at a team like Dynamos, no club house, no ground, surely a club with such a big history, it's a sad," he says.
"At Waterfalls we had secured ka gound kedu (our own land) but nothing materialised. Because people are not looking at the future of Dynamos, they want to have what they have right now."
Shaya is currently an ambassador for the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) alongside Zimbabwe's gospel music couple Charles and Olivia Charamba and Dynamos coach David Mangigora.
This role entails initiatives to encourage responsible driving.
However, Shaya is yet to be involved in any commercials or campaigns since assuming the role some two years ago.
"When he was made ambassador at road safety those are the days he fell ill. So maybe they (TSCZ) think it is still like that. No one has communicated to hear how he is but if they did, they would see that the situation, he is fine," Agnes says.
And asked if he receives any form of support from Dynamos, Shaya shakes his head.
Shaya was part of a formidable Dynamos side that scooped a record six pre-Independence titles in the then Rhodesia National Football League in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1976 and 1978.
He says he has been downgraded to being a mere club supporter.
"No there is nothing. Usually when we have meetings that's when we get travelling allowances," he says.
"At Dynamos there are people who are power hungry," interjects Agnes.
"At the moment I wouldn't allow him to be involved with Dynamos. I realise they want to use his name. The name he created for the club, but nothing comes out of it."
But Shaya was not going to let his wife get away with this one either.
"But vakandidaidza ndingati handisikuda (If they call me can I say I no)?" he says.