FORMER Manicaland Tennis Board chairman, Frank Thomas Martins’ death evoked sympathy across the sports fraternity in Manicaland.
Martin who succumbed to heart attack last Monday and was laid to rest on Wednesday was 82.
He was husband to Tennis Zimbabwe life president, Ann Martin.
While observing Covid-19 dictates of social distancing, it was a sorry sight as a good number of tennis programmes beneficiaries and stakeholders lined up to bid farewell to the hearse bearing Martin’s remains when it made its way to his final resting place at Five Streams Farm near Mutare on Wednesday.
Together with his wife, Martin formed Mantas Tennis Academy which developed into a reputable tennis talent nursery in the country.
Through its development initiatives, the Mantas Tennis Academy gives an opportunity to more the 2 500 primary and secondary school going children to play tennis on a weekly basis in schools, including many from less privileged communities.
Through this initiative, family lives were changed. Thousands were helped. Hundreds live all over the world, either playing or coaching tennis. Others are now in different professional fields.
A lot are living in the United States of America because of the Martins.
Many recall how the late Martins funded the training and competition programmes, paying coaches’ salaries, travelling costs for players and coaches, provide equipment, subsidised fees for those at Mantas house at their farm as well as pay school fees for the underprivileged even to top schools like St Georges – all just for their love of the community.
Through the Mantas Tennis Academy project, the Martin family bankrolled the maintenance of the tennis courts at its adopted home at Mutare Girls’ High.
Former Mantas Tennis Academy player and head coach, Freeman Nyamunokora, said Martin will be sorely missed as he supported his wife in developing the game of tennis in Manicaland and beyond.
“Through them came out players like Genius Chidzikwe, Pfungwa Mahefu, Liberty Nzula, Siphilisiwe Ncube, Pauline Chawafambira and Munashe Makuni, just to mention a few of the hundreds.
“Mantas programme assisted them to realise their dreams. Martin supported his wife in developing the game of tennis since 1986 in Manicaland and the nation at large. He will be greatly missed.
“He was one of the greatest farmers in our province and taught a lot of farmers how to reap big returns from their businesses,” said Nyamunokora.
Sports and Recreation Commission Manicaland provincial coordinator, Shupikai Berejena, said Manicaland has lost a key figure in sports development.
“It is indeed a sad moment for us all in the sports industry. The Martin family are basically the reason Manicaland is a powerhouse in national tennis competitions. They took it upon themselves to develop the game through various initiatives that they funded from their own savings. Very few among us can do that. We will forever cherish his good works in impacting on people’s lives,” said Berejena.