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NH News

Manchester shooting victim remembered as ‘beautiful soul,’ a soccer star who dreamed of going pro

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Courtesy Sam Latona
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Thamba Mbungu, “a beautiful soul,” was the victim of a shooting Sunday at Derryfield Park.

Manchester’s soccer community and others are grieving the loss of Thamba Mbungu, a talented player described as possessing a beautiful soul, found dead Sunday morning in Derryfield Park.

Mbungu, 20, of Manchester, died from a bullet wound to the back, according to an autopsy performed Monday morning by Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Mitchell Weinberg. His death was ruled a homicide.

Max Latona, a philosophy professor and executive director of the Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm College, and his son Sam both knew Mbungu for about a decade. Mbungu and his family came to Manchester around 2008 from the Congo, Latona said.

Mbungu and Sam Latona met when they both were about 10 through Inti Academy, a non-profit that uses soccer to bring Manchester’s refugee, immigrant, and other city children together. Max Latona was executive director of Inti and had coached Mbungu.

“I only coached him for a year and he still called me Coach Max,” said Latona. Mbungu visited Latona’s home just two weeks ago.

Sam said Mbungu was “a fantastic soccer player.”

“He had aspirations and dreams of playing professional soccer which he was absolutely capable of,” he said.

In 2019, Mbungu was named High School Player of the Year for New Hampshire while a senior at Central High School. Mbungu also played for the Revolution Youth Team, funded by the New England Revolution, a professional soccer club owned by Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots. The team competes in Major League Soccer in the Eastern Conference of the league.

“Thamba was a true competitor, a great person, humble and caring,” said New England Revolution Assistant Coach Marcelo Santos.

On Monday Manchester’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Goldhardt released the following statement:

“We are completely devastated by the loss of this young man, taken far too soon. We know Thamba’s passing will be felt deeply by our entire school community, particularly his alma mater, Central. We are making sure that resources and support are available for students and staff during this difficult time.”

Sam Latona said kids looked up to Mbungu, especially those at Central High School.

“They saw him as not only a talented soccer player, but as a role model for hard work, intense dedication, and a quiet leadership,” he said. “The dedication and work he put into the game he loved never went unnoticed, and it will forever serve as a demonstration of what it takes to be great.”

Max Latona said Thamba, after high school, worked second shift at a local factory but was trying to connect with a professional soccer team overseas.

The Latonas both said Thamba was an extraordinarily happy, kind and respectful person.

“It’s impossible to capture the whole of him in one article, but I would say that Thamba had a wonderful laugh and a method of understanding people that made you feel safe around him,” Sam said. “His smile reminded you that everything was going to turn out okay. “

A fundraiser on GoFundMe has been established to cover Mbungu’s funeral expenses. As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, $12,376 had been donated, exceeding the $10,000 goal.

“It’s with great sadness in my heart to hear the terrible news about this great soul we all deeply loved this man,” wrote Femi Fatukasi, who organized the fundraiser. “He was a great soccer player and we’d all hope to see him go pro.”

Mbungu’s body was found in Derryfield Park Sunday morning around 7:40 a.m. after police were called about an unresponsive person who was “not breathing at all.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call detectives at the Manchester Police Department at 603-668-8711. Anonymous tips can be made via Manchester CrimeLine using a secure online form or by calling 603-624-4040.