The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) is mourning the death of the country’s first indigenous FIFA referee Bennet Simfukwe.
Simfukwe, 81 died in Kitwe on July 2 after an illness.
He earned his FIFA referee badge three years after Zambia’s independence in 1967 and was CAF Match Commissioner from 1991 to 2004.
His last match as a referee was on May 11, 1975 when he officiated in Mufulira Blackpools’ home league game against City of Lusaka at John Kachofa Stadium in Mufulira.
Simfukwe was also appointed FAZ Match Commissioner in 1985, a position he held until his passing.
FAZ President Andrew Kamanga said the Zambian football fraternity has lost a true pioneer.
“The death of Mr. Simfukwe has come as a great shock especially that football is running out of great minds that were part of the pioneering period of our game,” Kamanga said.
“Such deaths remind us of the need to cherish and honour these greats. In a small way, we have been unearthing some of these long-forgotten heroes of our game and seeking to document their knowledge.”
“Our thoughts go out to the family as they mourn this great son of the soil.”
The late Simfukwe also served as FAZ General Secretary from 1990 to 1993 and was prior to that Referees Association of Zambia Chairperson from 1968 to 1969.
Simfukwe was also a member of Zambia’s record 13-time league champions Nkana FC where he served as chairperson from 1982 to 1983 and as treasurer from 1988 to 1990.
Meanwhile, Simfukwe was a sports all-rounder and was Zambia’s pre-independence basketball national team captain at the second edition of the All-Africa Games in Lagos, Nigeria in 1961 and began his playing career on the court in 1957. Simfukwe later served as Zambia Basketball Association President from 1971-1984.
“Simfukwe who was a decorated sports administrator was bestowed an insignia of meritorious achievement on Africa Freedom Day by President Edgar Lungu,” FAZ spokesperson Sydney Mungala said.
“The presidential honour was in recognition of his contribution to the development of multi-disciplinary sports in Zambia, including football and basketball.”