TRIBUTES have been paid to a beloved football coach who tragically died after a battle with cancer.
Coach for the Lee Rangers, 38-year-old Zbigniew Jablonski, died on Saturday, June 15.
The Gosport man, a father of two, was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Now, his fellow coaches have paid tribute to the man they affectionately nicknamed ‘Zibby’, who they say had an unrivalled passion for the beautiful game.
Fiona Joss, 39, from Lee-on-the-Solent, said: ‘My younger son was in the team that he coached so it’s hit home very hard.
‘He was a true gent and a really hard worker – he had a full-time job and did some extra stuff on the side – and yet still made time for coaching football. He was just a really nice guy.
‘Zibby was hugely passionate and that came out when he coached the team.
‘He always had a smile on his face and his love of football rubbed off on all the youngsters.
‘The town has lost a great football coach and a wonderful friend.’
Ian Byng, 36, from Gosport, is also a coach for Lee Rangers.
He said: ‘We took Zibby on at Lee Rangers about two years ago because his son played for the club – and he was absolutely fantastic.
‘He was also really keen to get involved and was incredibly helpful. We started a second team and with Zibby they went from strength-to-strength.
‘He brought different ideas and a fresh way of coaching. Zibby really enjoyed what he did and everyone could see it.
‘We were all shocked when we heard that he would be stepping down – and are heartbroken now that he’s gone. It’s a very sad loss for us all.’
Crowdfunding campaigns are now underway to both pay for Zibby’s funeral and to support the family with some additional income.
Fiona said: ‘As well as helping to support the family we’re looking to do some stuff in the future to support Cancer Research UK.’
Ian added: ‘Cancer is a rotten illness and it’s important that we do things to remember everything Zibby did for us.’
To donate to the funeral, go to justgiving.com/crowdfunding/fundsforzibby.
To donate to Zibby’s family – his wife and two children – people can go to justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ross-pollock.