Remembering Cees Versteeg: A Legacy of Empowering Sports in Mutare-Haarlem

Remembering Cees Versteeg: A Legacy of Empowering Sports in Mutare-Haarlem
09 October 2023
Sydney Mangweka
Mutare Haarlem City Link Sport Project mourns the untimely passing of Cees Cornelis Versteeg, a devoted sports enthusiast and visionary who played a significant role in fostering sports development and connections between Mutare, Zimbabwe, and Haarlem, the Netherlands. Cees Versteeg’s dedication and unwavering commitment to the project have left an indelible mark on the lives of many individuals. Cees succumbed to a long illness at his home in Blomendaal, Netherlands on Sunday the 1st of October 2023. He was 74 years old at the time of his demise.
The Mutare Haarlem City Link Sport Project, initiated by Cees Versteeg and other key stakeholders in both Mutare City in Zimbabwe and Haarlem City in The Netherlands, aimed to create opportunities for youth engagement, skill development, and cultural exchange through sports. Under his capable leadership, the project flourished and touched the lives of numerous young athletes in both Mutare and Haarlem. Cees Versteeg’s passion for sports and his desire to make a positive impact were evident in the number of people who benefited from his efforts. Through the project, aspiring athletes were provided with access to training facilities, coaching programs, and international exchanges that broadened their horizons and opened doors to new opportunities.
In honor of Cees Versteeg, a virtual funeral service was held at the National Art Gallery in Mutare while the live service was held in Blomendaal, in the Netherlands. Former sports leaders and beneficiaries of the Mutare Haarlem City Link Sport Project gathered to pay their respects at the art gallery. Alan Mandeya, Chrispen Dzimunwe, Nester Nyanguru and many others shared their heartfelt stories of how Cees Versteeg’s guidance and support transformed their lives. Alan, a renowned Zimbabwe National Handball instructor, coach and sport administrator, expressed his gratitude for the opportunities provided by Cees Versteeg. “Cees believed in me when no one else did. He helped me secure scholarships and guided me towards success. I owe a great deal to his mentorship,” he said.
Chrispen Dzimunwe, a former volleyball player, remembered Cees Versteeg as a father figure and a source of inspiration. “Cees saw potential in me and invested his time and resources to nurture my talent. Cees, encouraged me to further my education and now am a qualified Civil Engineer. His belief in me gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and reach new heights,” Chrispen shared. Nester, who is now a small business owner, spoke of Cees Versteeg’s profound impact on the sporting community. “Cees was not just a leader; he was a mentor, friend and father to all of us. He encouraged us to think beyond our limitations and pushed us to strive for excellence. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations,” Nester remarked.
Cees Versteeg was a master networker, seamlessly connecting with various sporting governing bodies to advance the Mutare Haarlem City Link Sports Project. His collaborations with esteemed individuals from institutions such as the Sport and Recreation Commission, including Tawanda Manyeruke, Daniel Kuwengwa, Isaiah Mpofu and Shupikayi Berejena, helped pave the way for impactful initiatives. Through these partnerships, Cees fostered a climate of collaboration, pooling resources, and expertise to promote sports development in Mutare and beyond. Moreover, Cees Versteeg’s networking extended to universities and colleges, where he collaborated with influential figures such as Joshua Matume who is the Principal Director – Physical Education and Sport at Marymount Teachers’ College and Manicaland Athletics Board Chairperson. Together, they championed programs that nurtured young talents, providing access to quality sports education and training. His relentless efforts in schools and communities enabled him to identify and nurture budding athletes, creating a strong foundation for future success.
Cees Versteeg’s legacy also included his instrumental role in establishing a vibrant Athletics team in Mutare. Tendai Tagara, who now serves as the President of the Zimbabwe Athletics Association, was one of the standout sport administrators who worked alongside Cees. Together they shaped a formidable athletics team that brought recognition to Mutare’s athletic prowess locally, regionally and internationally. The likes of Charles Soza, Stanely Tsikisa and Point Chaza were some of the products that came out of the Mutare-Haarlem Athletics brand. Additionally, Cees played a pivotal role in developing a cycling team, providing opportunities for aspiring cyclists to hone their skills and compete at national and international levels.
The impact of Cees Versteeg’s mentorship and training programs transcended the realm of sports. Many of his trainees have gone on to secure employment in esteemed organizations such as the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service, Police and Army. Cees’ dedication to holistic development empowered individuals not only in their athletic pursuits but also in their personal and professional lives. His tireless efforts and networking abilities have left an indelible mark on the sports landscape, empowering countless individuals and shaping a brighter future for Mutare’s sporting community.
Cees Versteeg’s deep love for Zimbabwe was evident in every aspect of his funeral service, which was a beautiful tribute to the country he held dear. The music of the late National hero and iconic Olivia Mtukudzi, a beloved Zimbabwean musician, filled the air, creating a soul-stirring atmosphere that resonated with all those in attendance. The choice of music was a poignant reflection of Cees’ appreciation for Zimbabwean culture and his desire to celebrate its rich musical heritage. Through the soothing melodies and heartfelt lyrics, Olivia Mtukudzi’s music provided solace and a powerful connection to the spirit of Zimbabwe that Cees cherished. Furthermore, the aesthetic presentations during the funeral service in Blomerdaal further showcased Cees Versteeg’s love for Zimbabwe. The African theme that permeated the event’s decor, visuals, and artistic expressions paid homage to the country’s vibrant traditions and heritage. Each detail was carefully curated to create an immersive experience that transported guests to the heart of Zimbabwe’s cultural tapestry. The presence of these elements served as a testament to Cees’ affinity for the country and his unwavering commitment to honoring its beauty and diversity. It is clear that if given the chance, Cees would have desired for his remains to rest in Zimbabwe, where his heart and soul found solace and where his love for the country could be forever embraced.
Tsitsi Chinoda who attended the virtual screening of the art gallery had an inspiring story to tell. Tsitsi who once served as a maid at Cees Versteeg’s residence in Zimbabwe, has a remarkable journey of personal and educational growth. With Cees’ support and encouragement, Tsitsi was able to upgrade her education from Ordinary Level to pursuing her Advanced Level studies. Cees played an instrumental role in guiding and providing resources for Tsitsi’s educational journey, enabling her to pass her exams with flying colors. Tsitsi describes Cees as a loving and caring man whose contributions were pivotal in her success in life. Thanks to Cees’ unwavering support, Tsitsi’s life took a transformative turn. She transitioned from being a maid to becoming a qualified graduate from a local college. Today, Tsitsi proudly works at one of the largest chain stores in Zimbabwe, a testament to her determination and the opportunities facilitated by Cees. Tsitsi acknowledges that her achievements were made possible by Cees’ belief in her potential and the continuous support he provided throughout her educational and professional journey. Tsitsi reflects on her connection with Cees, expressing her gratitude for the profound impact he had on her life. While she never had the opportunity to travel to Holland, Cees brought Holland to her through the education and support she received. His commitment to empowering others, irrespective of their background, allowed Tsitsi to transcend her circumstances and achieve her dreams. Cees’ influence continues to resonate in Tsitsi’s life, serving as a constant reminder of the transformative power of mentorship, love, and support. Tsitsi’s story is a testament to the profound impact that an individual like Cees Versteeg can have on others’ lives. Through his kind and caring nature, he uplifted and empowered Tsitsi, enabling her to embrace new opportunities and create a brighter future for herself.
In Blomendaal, Rutendo Mandeya a former sport leader and beneficiary of the City Link Sport Project stood before the somber gathering at Cees’ funeral, his voice trembled with a mix of sorrow, gratitude, and admiration. Emotions surged within him, and he poured out his heart in his heartfelt speech. Tears welled up in his eyes as he reminisced about the cherished memories he shared with Cees, their laughter echoing in his mind. Rutendo’s voice cracked with sadness as he spoke of the immense loss they all felt, acknowledging the void left by Cees’ departure. Yet amidst the grief, there was a profound sense of gratitude for the impact Cees had on his life. Rutendo said that he found a father figure, friend and advisor in Cees. Rutendo’s words were laced with deep appreciation for the kindness, wisdom, and guidance that Cees had bestowed upon him and others. With every word, Rutendo’s love and admiration for Cees shone through, as he expressed how Cees’ spirit would forever live on in the hearts of those he touched.
Speaking at the National Art Gallery Elizabeth Muusha who is the Regional Director at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Mutare said that, “The establishment of the Mutare Haarlem City Link project was a joint effort involving key stakeholders from both cities. Local government officials, community leaders, and organizations played a crucial role in shaping the vision for the project. The overarching vision of the city link was to create a platform for meaningful exchange, friendship, and collaboration between Mutare and Haarlem. The project sought to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, resources, and experiences to foster sustainable development and improve the quality of life for residents of both cities.” She went on to say that Cees was one of the most frequent customers to buy artworks exhibited at the Art Gallery in Mutare.
The news of Cees Cornelis Versteeg’s passing has left a void in the hearts of those who knew him, but his contributions and the lives he touched will forever be cherished. The Mutare Haarlem City Link Sport Project will continue to honor his memory by carrying forward his vision of empowering young athletes and fostering global connections through sports. Cees Versteeg’s legacy will remain an enduring testament to the power of sports in transforming lives and bridging cultures. The Mutare Haarlem community mourns his loss and expresses gratitude for his invaluable contribution to the sporting world. Kumakomo Community Radio Stedenband Haarlem-Mutare Mutare-Haarlem Sportleaders Rutendo Mandeya Alan Tichaona Mandeya Joshua Matume Shupikayi Berejena Matijn Van Luijk Dik Bol

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