‘He had a good future’: teen high-level soccer player mourned

After graduating from high school in June, David Bunguke was taking a year off to train, work and weigh his post-secondary options while pursuing his dream of playing professional soccer.

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After graduating from high school in June, David Bunguke was taking a year off to train, work and weigh his post-secondary options while pursuing his dream of playing professional soccer.

The 17-year-old had attracted interest from colleges and universities in Canada and the United States, thanks to his standout play for a Manitoba provincial youth team.

The fact Bunguke will never get to reach his potential compounds his family’s grief after he was killed when a car crashed Tuesday night into a hydro pole in the Winnipeg neighbourhood of Old St. Vital.

“He had a good future,” his father, John, told the Free Press at the family’s St. Boniface home Friday afternoon. “He was a boy who was a friend to everybody. He was a very, very good boy to us and to his friends.”

The car — driven by one of Bunguke’s friends, according to his family — went out of control at a left curve in the northbound lanes of St. Mary’s Road before hitting a wooden pole near Guay Avenue around 8:50 p.m.

Surveillance video from a nearby business shows the car travelling at a high rate of speed when it veers out of control.

Initially taken to hospital in critical condition, the driver was later upgraded to stable, said Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jay Murray.

Bunguke was pronounced dead shortly after he was taken to hospital.

His family is waiting for more information from police. No charges have been laid, said Murray.

John Bunguke was returning home from work around 10 p.m., when one of his son’s friends called to tell him about the collision. Shortly after he arrived at the hospital, a doctor informed him his son didn’t make it.

“We are still grieving here,” the father said while sitting next to a TV entertainment centre decorated with framed photos of his children. “We put everything in God’s hands.”

Relatives and friends visited the home to comfort the family. In addition to his parents, the teen is survived by his four sisters.

Born in Kenya and of Congolese origin, Bunguke moved to Canada with his family when he was five years old.

He became a standout player on youth soccer teams in Winnipeg, later becoming a member of Team Manitoba in his age group. In August, he played for Manitoba at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Ontario’s Niagara region.

A few months earlier, he drew interest from scouts and coaches at a showcase event in Saskatoon. He was Manitoba’s player of the match in a 2-1 victory over Saskatchewan.

His athlete profile on the Canada Summer Games website named his father, who played professionally in Africa, as his inspiration.

Bunguke’s teammates and coaches gathered earlier in the week to talk and remember him. Support has been offered to the teens he played alongside.

“David was a kid with a big heart, and he was passionate about the game and the things he did,” said Chris Lourenco, who coached Manitoba at the Canada Summer Games and is Manitoba Soccer’s technical director.

“Everything he did, he really put everything into it.”

Héctor Vergara, executive director of Manitoba Soccer, fought back tears while he paid tribute to Bunguke. His son is also a member of Team Manitoba.

“The kids are in shock,” Vergara said of Bunguke’s teammates. “I feel so sorry for (his parents). To lose someone at that age — your whole life is ahead of you.”

Coaches from across Canada have offered condolences, added Lourenco.

Gode Katembo last saw Bunguke about three weeks ago at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex on Waverley Street.

Katembo informed the teen there was a scholarship offer for him from a college in Alberta. He encouraged Bunguke, a centre midfielder, to accept it.

“He was a very talented kid. He played for a lot of premier youth teams, and he had a promising future,” said Katembo, who mentored Bunguke. “When it came to soccer, he was one of the best.

“It’s devastating. No parent wants to lose their 17-year-old. They’re trying to cope, but it’s very hard.”

Katembo, a coach and the founder of the Manitoba African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, knew Bunguke for more than 10 years.

“He was someone close to me, special to me,” said Katembo. “It’s like losing a younger brother.”


Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.


Updated on Friday, October 21, 2022 10:13 PM CDT: Adds video

Updated on Friday, October 21, 2022 12:30 PM CDT: Add photos.

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