Former Brave Warriors no-nonsense defender Mali Ngarizemo has described the late Ted Dumitru as a man who breathed, ate, slept, talked and walked football, adding that he had football’s best interest at heart.
Known as ‘The Professor’, Dumitru, who coached the Brave Warriors between 2000 and 2001 after replacing Lucky Richter, died yesterday morning after collapsing at Eastgate Shopping Centre, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, according to South African media sources.
Ngarizemo, who was scouted and handed his first national team cap by the late Dumitru, said the departed Romanian mentor provided the turning point in his football career.
“He is the man that saw me playing rural football in Mariental back in the days and immediately showed his interest in me just after watching for one match. He took my details after the match and before I knew it, he gave me my first-ever national team call-up. As they say the rest is history. His death is indeed a great loss to Africa and the world at large.”
“As a player I learned a lot from him and in later years I still maintained contract with him and also got to learn more as a coach myself. He was really an exceptional human being and a man of the people,” adds Ngarizemo.
In 1980, Dumitru arrived in Africa and was appointed head coach of Zambia. He led the team in the preliminaries of the African Cup of Nations, together with Dick Chama, helping them qualify for the final of the tournament in 1982, but he did not participate due to his US passport, and was replaced by Yugoslav coach Ante Bulešic.
During his stint there, Zambia’s president at the time, Kenneth Kaunda, once said of him: “He is more than a coach. He is a son of Africa. He is a humanist, who puts sports well-being ahead of his profession.”
He left Zambia and signed a contract with the African Football Confederation through which he was sent to Swaziland and then Namibia to help develop football. In 1985, Dumitru arrived in South Africa, signing with Kaizer Chiefs, with whom he won many national trophies.
He later moved to Mamelodi Sundowns, the other big club in South Africa, winning two more titles in 1998 and 1999. In South Africa he also coached Orlando Pirates and Manning Rangers. He later joined Mamelodi Sundowns again, leading the South African side to an African Champions League final in 2001 in his second spell with the club.
He then returned to Kaiser Chiefs, with whom he won two titles in a row in 2004 and 2005, and made a big step towards the national team of Bafana Bafana in November 2005, but unfortunately he struggled to make progress. With the team performing poorly, he was dismissed in February 2006, following the final of the African Cup of Nations tournament.