FOOTBALL STARS FROM CHIREDZI

Many regions have contributed  to the development of Zimbabwe football. In this  article, let me explore the part played by Chiredzi. For clarity i will look at Hippo Valley, Chiredzi Town , Mkwasine and Triangle. I will highlight the stars who were born and bred in these areas, and started their football careers there before they became known nationwide. 

I had a long discussion with Dennis Madzingo the Bondolfi College   trained teacher  who had a stint with Kismet United in Masvingo  before moving to Botswana to play for Nico United and Mochudi Center Chiefs. He currently works as an educationist in the UK . Dennis gave me a list of the many stars  who emerged from this region.

 The region has given us some of the best. My focus will be on the post independence era. I feel it is important to chronicle this so that some regions do not feel marginalised  when the history of Zimbabwe football is documented. Such records will also help us to revisit the structures that used to give rise to such talents.  Sometimes the way forward is by first looking back.

 Hippo Valley estate gave us a number of legends. The most prominent are Weekly Mwale  a goalkeeper  who played for Wankie Football Club, Godfrey Tamirepi a midfielder who played for Ziscosteel and is now coaching ZPC Kariba and Harringto Shereni who played for Caps United, Jets,   Dynamos, SR Delemont, FC Istres, Guingamp, FC Nantes and RC Strasbourg. 

 All three are also products of Hippo Valley High School and it shows the role that schools played in football development in the country.  As earlier stated, sometimes the way forward is to look back and we need to revisit our sports policy in schools. A robust  approach to develop  football in schools must be well thought out.   

Other notable stars to emerge from this football rich estate are Peter Mlilo a goalkeeper whose football career was cut short by a knife incident at the colliery. According to Dennis Madzingo , Mlilo was found with a knife in his socks and was banned for life. ” He was a good goalkeeper but that error of judgement cost him dear !”, said Dennis. 

 Hippo Valley also had a notable football family in the form of the Masimbe clan. ” The Masimbe family had Cabin  who played for Ziscosteel and the Zimbabwe under 20, Mikel nicknamed Tikko who trained as a teacher at Bondolfi and played for Kismet and Patrick  who played for Chisumbanje, they were all descent players !” added my source.

  Tinashe Bhurami Hippo Valley and Zisco Steel, Darlington Machuwaire of Tanganda and Govenor Phiri  who also trained at Bondolfi Trs College  and played for Kismet United complete the Hippo Valley roll call of honour. 

What about Chiredzi Town, which stars emerged from here ?  The man who gave me the names under discussion, Dennis Madzingo  is from Chiredzi Town. As earlier highlighted , while at Bondolfi Teachers College , he played for Kismet United  before plying his trade in Botswana. It is important to note that a number of players from this region trained as teachers and Bondolfi Teachers college should be applauded for establishing this link. Said Dennis, ” I am proud that I advised Lloyd Hlahla to train as a teacher, the college had an  open door policy for talented footballers who  had good passes too .  Many are still teaching so they have contributed as footballers and educationists “. 

Back to the Chiredzi list. One man to start with is  Norman ” Wezhira, Chikozho ” Togara. Any keen follower of Zimabwe football will be familiar with  the legend’s uncompromising stance when it came to  receiving his dues. 

Dependable ? Yes when on the pitch, heput in a man of the match performances only to disappear for weeks . If the wages did not come through on time, ” Wezhira”  would simply retreat to his roots, Chiredzi Town. 

In an interview with Albert Marufu writing  in The Standard, ” Wezhira”, explained his reasons  for playing truant, ” People just choose not to understand me. I am a family man and will never tolerate nonsense.  If i am not paid what we agreed on, I will go home to Chiredzi. I run a hardware shop , I also own a house unlike in other towns where I have to lodge ” stressed the former defender.

 He did duty with  many clubs including giants Dynamos, Platinum, Masvingo United, and Caps United. Each of these have their tale to tell about a defender regarded by many as ” the problem child of Zimbabwe football “. 

Another interesting character to emerge from the town is Zvenyika Makonese. According to Dennis, Zvenyika actually started  as a goalkeeper  before converting to a centre back. He played  for GMB Chiredzi, Zesa Chiredzi , Triangle before Moses  ” Bambo ” Chunga on a scouting mission took him to Shabanie. He also had a stint  in South Africa.   Zvenyika who played well into his forties earned many caps for  Zimbabwe Warriors.

Other notables from  the town include one who was reputed by none other  than the ” Flying Doctor”  Tauya Murehwa as  the most talented player he ever played with in his early  days, Ignatius Msindo.  He  played for Rail Stars. ” If you ask Tauya Murehwa , he will reinforce this, Ignatious was some talent !” said  Dennis.

 Others to add to the list are Patrick  Khumbulani who played  for Chapungu and Dynamos, Pardon Chunungwa a brother to Norman, Tennyson Chatinyare who played for Karoi United, Black Mambas and Blackpool. “Tennyson was a free kick specialist, it is not an exaggeration to say  he could bend them like Beckham !” Dennis said without hesitation.  Julius Hungwe the keeper who got Masvingo United  promoted and Taurayi Gokwe should also  be  on the list. 

Mkwasine  gave us the exciting twins  ,Cain and Abel Muteji who played for Chapungu United and the Zimbabwe Under 23 , Lloyd Hlahla and  Malonga Sithole  who both trained  as teachers at Bondolfi Teachers College and played for Masvingo United.

  I will always cherish the memories of the 1995 All Africa games which Zimbabwe hosted.  That was a festival of sport and football in particular. The heroics of the  the Young Warriors will be etched in the history of Zimbabwe football forever. Providing the thrust in this team were the Muteji twins. Who can forget the two nil victory over Guinea at Barbourfield stadium  which  legendary  news presenter  Lovemore Banda for some reason reported as three nil. ” Muteji, Bunjira, Muteji, they might as well form a law firm !” he said in his booming voice.

 We went to bed thinking it was three nil  but realised it was only two nil.  Anyway it did not matter, the team was in the final against Egypt  and the Mutejis had played a blinder. 

Lloyd Hlahla who  played for Masvingo United , Dynamos , Amazulu, Shooting Stars  among others  was a lethal striker. He is now teaching at Tynwald Primary school where he continues  to impart his football knowledge. 

 In Zimbabwe , it is advisable for footballers to take education seriously. In an interview with veteran scribe  Michael Kariati, the legend said, “Education is very important in our lives while a career in sport is short. When you are injured, you are quickly forgotten but your education stays with you and you can use it anywhere. This is a lesson to all football players and I am glad i realised it early !” he advised. 

Finally Triangle, well Dennis seemed to struggle for names  from this estate. He however remembers  Brighton and Joram Machambo  , the goalkeeping  brothers who played for Chapungu United. 

With a football  son who captained a European club Nantes  in France,  Harrington Shereni, twins Cain and Abel  who set the football fraternity  ablaze and number of footballers who served their clubs with distinction, Chiredzi can be  proud of its contribution to football development in Zimbabwe. 

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