By Chris Totobela
A large number of sports lovers gathered at the Ethiopian Episcopal Church in Raglan Road on Easter Monday to bid farewell to one of Makhanda’s legendary female sports icons. Nomaxabiso “Jomo” Funani, popularly known as Xaxa, succumbed to a long illness last week.
The 33-year-old Funani joined the African Connection Women’s Football Club in her teenage years and immediately captured the hearts of many football fans. She was the darling of Amakonokono fans even before her game saw a tremendous improvement when she switched positions from right-wing to anchor and playmaker.
Her educated right foot, ability to read the game, and her accurate pinpoint passes earned her the respect of more experienced teammates. Funani became a permanent feature in the all-conquering African Connection squad. She contributed immensely to the success of the team when they won three regional league titles in a row, and one regional municipality game.
Funani made history in the district as she represented both the regional under-17 and under-19 sides simultaneously.
“She was very young when I first met her at the club, but I was so impressed with how quickly she adapted to our style of play” said Nwabisa Tyelbooi, who captained Funani for many years.
“She was a rare talent and could split the opposition’s defence with one pass. I feel so sad that she left us at a young age. I always hoped that she would return to the field and do what she does best. Our prayers are with her family and friends at this moment”, Tyelbooi added.
All of the speakers at Funani’s funeral echoed the same sentiment, telling mourners what a great person Xaxa was and how she would go out of her way to help others.
Funani was forced to hang up her boots at the prime of her game due to health problems. But she left a huge mark that earned her legendary status. She will be remembered for her smile – she always played with a smile on her face, even when the game was tough and hard.