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.