The picture of Zimbabwe Premier League Striker Malvern Dumbura chasing after the ball in a recent match against Dynamos sent social media into meltdown. Everyone had a word of advice for the seemingly overweight striker. Some of the comments were really nasty but the damning one was the one which said Malvern was bringing the league into disrepute. ” How can we be taken seriously as a football nation if we have players who look they are playing in a boozers league?” some football experts asked.
I do not know Malvern well but those who do had some good things to say about him. In one post former Zimbabwe Warriors defender, Victor Kamhuka said, ” I know Malvern well, he has always carried this weight and it has never hampered him. His take off is remarkable and he has an eye for goal. !”
Norman Maroto, the former Dynamos and Gunners hitman also came out in defence of Malvern. ” He is good at what he does and must not be discouraged by the nasty comments. Keep going Malvern..” said the man we used to know in football circles as Lumumba.
The discussion got me thinking. Is Malvern Dumbura the first player to tip the scale in our league ? The answer is no, there have been a number of legends who were also in the heavyweight football division. Social Media now magnifies everything, but let us remind each other about these past legends. Many of them played before the advent of Facebook and other social media platforms so they dodged the hurtful comments.
- Majuta Mpofu– nicknamed ” Jujuju ” the man was a dribbling wizard who was a crowd favourite for Highlanders Football Club fans and many who love to watch skilful players. His legacy is cast in stone since he is also credited with inspiring a new generation of dribblers like Boy Ndlovu and Francis Paketh. Boy Ndlovu is regarded as one of the best dribblers of his generation and Majuta helped to nurture that talent when he coached him at Eagles. Yes Majuta carried some weight into the then Super League. Did he bring it into disrepute ? Far from it, he entertained with his exquisite dribbling skills. Majuta was also a good boxer and if he had decided to pursue the sport, he would have fought in the heavyweight division.
- Francis Paketh -One of the most skilful players to grace the Zimbabwe league. He played for Eagles where he was inspired by Majuta . He also had a stint at Aces. He was not as good as his mentor but he was one of the most exciting players to watch with his fancy footwork.
- Ephraim Dzimbiri – The Zimbabwe National Team, Ziscosteel and Caps United left back did carry some extra kilograms but what a defender he was . Dzimbiri was also capable of packing booming shots from a distance. He was an intelligent defender who was always alert. Despite his weight , he was no slouch.
- Simon Dambaza – We called him Yokozuna , a nickname borrowed from the Japanese Sumo wrestlers. Those who follow this sport will get a picture as to why the legend was so nicknamed. But did his weight stop him from achieving his dreams ? No , his place in the football narrative of our nation is secure. He won the league with Caps United in 1996 and scored many goal coming from the bench. The sight of Dambaza taking off his tracksuit, warming up to enter the battle raised the expectation levels of Caps United fans. The legend was coach Steve Kwashi ‘s trump card and was a game changer.
- Willard Khumalo – Nicknamed” Mahwii or Action Packed” , the legend was popular across the football divide. Everyone loved Mahwii. What a midfielder. When he moved from Highlanders to Lancashire Steel , Mahwii’s weight had ballooned but that did not stop him from coming to the National Sport Stadium with the “Chimbi Chimbi boys” and grab the Madison Trophy from firm favourites Caps United. Mahwii played the sweeper ‘s role in that game to perfection and helped to steady the sheep thereby allowing his younger teammates to shine.
- Maxwell Dube – nicknamed ” Marhino ” the legend had some weight to carry but what a player he was. I liked his free kicks , very few players hit the ball as hard as he did. I remember him tormenting Black Rhinos goalkeeper Simba Manzungu with two bullet free kicks. Simba had to be persuaded to stay on otherwise he wanted to leave the pitch. He did not want to face the bullet shots anymore.
- Sifiso Mguni – The man who ended Black Rhinos sixteen year wait to beat Dynamos was often described as ” The stocky Sifiso Mguni ” He did carry some weight. That thunderbolt will live long in memory, what a way to end a long running jinx.
- Asani Juma -Nicknamed ” War Vet “, he formed a deadly combination with Thomas ” Chaurura ” Makwasha at Mhangura Football Club. But when Moses Chunga arrived to coach the team, he was not impressed and immediately advised the legend to ” Try wrestling “. It was a below the belt punch by Bambo but it was his way of telling the player that his weight was not suitable for football. The man who was preferred was a stark contrast to Juma, the diminutive Esau Amisi. Amisi was coach Chunga’s blue eyed boy but i do not think he was as good as Juma.
- Agent Sawu -The man we all knew as Ajira was a lethal finisher. When he returned to the domestic league from Europe , he joined Dynamos. He had put on sone weight and his coach Keegan Mumba did hint on that in one interview. The eloquent Mumba said, ” We are working on Agent’s weight to increase him sharpness in front of goals. !”. But Ajira had a great impact at Dynamos and quickly became a folk hero with his passion, commitment and professionalism. He helped many young players at the club. I have to admit that fans would like to see our players to look like Ronaldo but that is not always possible. Yes Malvern Dumbura does carry a bit of weight but it is not right to mock him. We have had legends before who carried their weight around with aplomb. The weight did not stop them from entertaining us. I can only say to Malvern, keep going and do not be forced into retirement by those who mock you. Write your own narrative. To borrow from Adebayo Akinfenwa the Wycombe striker who has also suffered years of body shaming in his 16 years in the football trenches, ” Everyone has an opinion but the only opinion which counts is the one you have about yourself ” It is a piece of advice which our beleaguered legend can take on board. Usanete!