VCU soccer player ‘Yo Yo’ dies in car crash

Posted at 10:31 AM, Jun 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-13 06:33:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A VCU senior on the men's soccer team has died after a car crash in Zambia over the weekend.

VCU officials said 21-year-old Yoram Mwila, affectionately known as "Yo Yo,"  died Saturday morning from injuries sustained in a car accident in Lusaka, Zambia.

Mwila was a rising senior and captain for the Ram's men soccer team.  

VCU Head Men's Soccer Coach Dave Giffard said in a news release that Mwila was an extraordinary young man that will be greatly missed because of his enthusiasm for life and infectious spirit.

"Within our team and our VCU family he was a leader, an amazing friend and an example of what a positive attitude can do for a person and a group of people," said Giffard. " I know as a coach, I'm not supposed to have any favorites but Yo Yo was one of mine and to be honest he always will be… I think that says a lot about who he was and why we all loved him so much."

VCU Interim Director of Athletics David Benedict said Mwila's death was a sad day for the university and that the school sends its thoughts and prayers to Mwila's family, teammates and friends.

Josh Pantazelos, now a goalkeeper for the Richmond Kickers, talked to CBS 6 News' Jake Burns Tuesday about Mwila.

"As far as personality on the field, he was always holding guys accountable," said Pantazelos, about the time spent alongside Mwila at VCU. "He led by example."

Assistant coach Brett Teach is helping his team cope with the loss of their leader.  He said Mwila was also the captain of Zambia's U17 national team, but that his family had even greater significance in Zambia.

"His father was at one time the minister of defense," said Teach. "His uncle was at one time the president of the country."

VCU's head coach Dave Gifford flew to Zambia to be with the family and attend Mwila's funeral Tuesday, along with a crowd of thousands.

"He wanted to get there and be with Yoram's family at home and let them know the impact he made on the lives of everybody here," said Teach. 

Mwila's death has also been hard on the VCU women's soccer team. In fact, players said that he constantly pushed them in the weight room and on the practice field.

Another women's team player said she knows Mwila will live on through the boys and that "they're going to play for him each and every day."