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Legendary Chunga honoured again in Belgium

The Zimbabwe football legend has been handed a VVIP invitation for the 10-day celebrations in Belgium which will start on June 14 and end on June 25, two days before the Belgian club turn 100 years old. Chunga, whose exploits for Eendracht Aalst have been honoured by the club on two occasions, in the past since he left Belgian football more than a quarter-of- a-century ago, has now been named among the greatest 11 players to represent the club in the past 100 years.

It’s a massive honour for the Zimbabwe football legend who has been invited to attend the week-long Centenary Celebrations in the city of Aalst next month.

The Belgian club, where Chunga spent five years in which he also captained the team, said more than 25 years after he left, their fans are still talking about him. The former Dynamos star became the first in-field Zimbabwean footballer, after Independence, to move to a European club, at a time when opportunities for African players in that part of the world, were not as vast as is the case today where the doors are wide open for every decent talented footballer.

‘‘More than 25 years after your last game for Eendracht Aalst, supporters are still talking about you,’’ the club’s chief executive, Dirk Adriaenssens, wrote in his official invitation for Chunga to come to Belgium for the Centenary Celebrations. ‘‘Your former football club, Eendracht Aalst, is celebrating its 100th birthday next month. This calls for a party. Below you will find the main program of our Centenary celebration: Saturday, 15 June, 2019 at 19:00pm – Legends Game (former players) Friday, 21 June, 2019 – Gala Dinner ‘‘100 years Eendracht Aalst.’’ Saturday, 22 June, 2019 at 20:00pm – Century Game (first team) ‘‘But, there is more. ‘‘You have been nominated for our ‘Team of the Century’, which, I am confident, you will consider as a great honour. ‘‘Consequently, a number of press interviews will be organised during your stay (television, radio and newspapers). We have already booked a two-person bedroom (breakfast included) for you at the Aalst Ibis hotel. ‘‘The room will be available from the 14th until the 23rd of June. We will also be glad to pick you up at Brussels Airport. It would, therefore, be a tremendous pleasure for us to welcome you in Aalst for this series of events. ‘‘We fervently hope that you will be able to accept this exclusive invitation.’’

Chunga told The Saturday Herald he was hugely honoured to be named in the Aalst “Team of The Century,’’ and to have another reunion with the people who will always have a special part in his heart.

‘‘It’s amazing that the story never ends and that’s what happens when you have a truly professional set-up because history will always be considered very important at such institutions because it helped shape what they are today,’’ said Chunga.

‘‘It’s the second invite I have received from the club in the two years for us to meet and go back memory lane and relive some of our finest moments and every time I get there, there is a feeling, which I can’t really describe, which just sweeps me away. ‘‘I spent the best part of my career there, even though I have to admit that Dynamos will also always have a special place in my heart, and going there to relive some of those moments, meet some of the fans who are still there because there is loyalty to brands in those parts of the world, and some of the teammates, is very special. ‘‘It’s humbling that these guys still remember the Zimbabwean who came to their town and played his heart out for them and, more than 25 years later, the connection is still strong and I’m sure we are going to have a great party, in the summer when the sun is shining, and memories will be created.’’

Two years ago, Chunga spent another 10 days in Aalst where he received five-star treatment and was feted like a king. He put his signature, alongside that of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in the Golden Book of the city of Aalst at a function to honour him at Town House and was also given a standing ovation by the club’s fans in their stadium.

Aalst were formed on June 25, 1919, and promoted into the Belgian top-flight in 1939. But, for a club whose roots were in a project in which residents of the city played football to raise money for prisoners of war during World War I, the war always appeared to define their path. And, in the season they gained promotion into the Belgian top-flight, World War II broke out and disrupted football and it wasn’t until 1942 that the club finally completed their first season in the elite league

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