HARARE – Gerald Dandah remembers waking up in a private hospital in Alexandria, South Africa without any recollection how he had got there last month.
But after feeling the excruciating pain in his heavily-bandaged left leg, it finally dawned on him that something terrible had landed him there.
After inquiring from nurses, Dandah was told that he had been lying on the hospital bed unconscious for the past two weeks as he had been involved in a fatal road accident along the M1 highway in Midrand, Johannesburg at the end of September.
The nurses also told him that he was lucky to be alive because at least seven people died on the spot after the minibus taxi they were aboard crashed into a barrier and overturned.
Even though he had regained consciousness, Dandah would spend another two weeks in hospital before returning to Zimbabwe but it was not all that straightforward.
“The last thing I remember was that I was sleeping while on the taxi before I woke up in hospital. The driver must have been speeding,” Dandah recounts his ordeal in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday.
“I lost everything that I had on me after the accident, including the clothes I was wearing, save for my passport and a few dollars.
“During my stay in hospital, not even my family knew about my whereabouts because I had lost everything even my cell phone. I finally got back home a few weeks ago wearing borrowed clothes and with a fractured leg.”
Prior to the crash, it seemed Dandah’s life was going smoothly as he had just successfully completed an Executive Programme in Sport Management course at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth.
The year-long course is offered by NMU in conjunction with Fifa and the International Centre for Sports Studies (Cies).
The primary objective of the programme is to provide an advanced skills-based short learning course that focuses on selected areas within sports management.
Dandah was also set to graduate cum laude with an average score of 81 percent in a class that also included three more Zimbabweans and some of the best football brains in the region.
His three compatriots were Zifa Central Region administrator Violet Jubane, former Highlanders and AmaZulu defender Sikhumbuzo Ndebele and Emmanuel Makuvi, a football coach and teacher at Sanyati Baptist School.
Influential Cape Town-based football agent Miguel Paiva, who represents former Zimbabwe captain and Kaizer Chiefs hardman Willard Katsande and a host of other household Super Diski names, was also part of Dandah’s class.
Bloemfontein Celtic CEO Phalatsi Philip Ramabodu, Umtata Bush Bucks team manager Lunga Tukute, Eastern Cape Rugby Union vice president Bantwin Matika and Botswana Footballers’ Union secretary-general Kgosana Masaseng were also in the same class.
“It’s a welcome achievement but I wouldn’t want to take the glory because it is all about teamwork,” the 32-year-old says about his distinction.
“I would like to thank my fellow classmates because we worked together in group discussions and they pushed me to get these grades.
“The course, facilitators from NMU, Fifa and Cies were also wonderful because of all the knowledge they provided us when it comes to sports management.”
But why did Dandah, who also holds a Masters Degrees in Media and Society Studies from the Midlands State University and is a qualified football coach, enrolled for the NMMU/Fifa/Cies Executive Programme in Sport Management course?
“This is a unique and comprehensive course and the only one of its kind in Africa,” he says.
“It definitely capacitates Africans to be champions in running of sport as they will be competent enough to oversee sport development for the good of many talented grassroots youths.
“We want our football to be run by competent managers who apply their knowledge and skill.”
The programme is held in three countries as part of the 2010 World Cup Legacy namely South Africa, Senegal and Egypt to cater for the different major African languages diversity.
Besides learning from some of the best facilitators, Dandah and his fellow students also sat through seminars hosted by some of the renowned sports management personnel.
These include Coumba Ndoffene, the Senegal Director of Fifa/Cies University, Christian Sujoy of Argentina, Vincent Monnier from Switzerland.
Zimbabwe’s own Solomon Mudege, who is a Fifa marketing official, took the students through a paper on social media and sponsorship.
Dandah’s quest for knowledge has, however, not been quenched by this newly-acquired qualification.
“I would like to follow in Mudege’s footsteps and study further until I qualify to be a Fifa Master,” he says.
“Fifa Master course entry requirements are stringent with two scholarships reserved for deserving African students. The tuition is CHF 55 000 CHF ($55 150) hence without scholarships not many Africans can afford to enrol for the course.”
With all the knowledge he has accumulated, Dandah, who was educated at Cranborne Boys High School in the capital, hopes to play a leading role in sports development in Zimbabwe.
“There are many talented youths in the 9-15 age group but if you make a follow-up on most of these youths they suddenly disappear from the radar. Is it lack of nurturing skills or drugs? I often shudder to wonder,” he says
“But it also exposes our current sport managers whose main concentration is on finished products not taking time to invest resources in youths at grassroots.
“We need role models for all youths in the ghetto who need strong prompting to make use of their talents. We need to change lives in marginalised areas through investment of time, teaching the youth life skills.
“This can only be done through focussed ethnographic researches that informs all sporting actors and policy makers so that there is a paradigm shift beneficial to the greater sporting family."
However, Dandah knows that all these dreams he possesses could have been ended with the blink of an eye on that fateful morning in Midrand which left him in hospital for four weeks.
“With everything good you achieve in life there are also some stumbling blocks that come your way,” he says of the accident.
“I would really like to thank God. By surviving such an accident, it shows that He has a greater purpose for me in my life.
“I would like to achieve more in Zimbabwe because there is a lot of untapped sporting talent. Sport is my passion and I would like to help bring success for my country by applying the knowledge that I have learned.”