Tadious Manyepo, Sports Reporter
HE was a good footballer, but decided to turn to his other passion — music — where he has remained great up to this day.
Most of people he played with at Darryn T, including Lloyd Chitembwe, Gift “Umbro” Muzadzi and the great Norman Mapeza still believe he could have scaled dizzy heights had he remained a footballer.
But 45-year-old Elton Muropa has no regrets.
Muropa is a revered backing vocalist for sungura musician Alick Macheso after he joined the famed Orchestra Mberikwazvo back in 2001.
At that time, his former DT Africa teammates like Musareka Jenitala and Alois Bunjira had reached the pinnacle of their football careers.
For once, especially after he looked at Mapeza, who was at Turkish side Galatasaray a few years back, Muropa regretted having ever decided to hang up his football boots.
He even considered coming back to the game he still loves most, but his sixth sense told him to pursue music.
“I was already a star player for Darryn T by the time I completed my Ordinary Level in Chitungwiza back in the early 1990s,” said Muropa.
“I was playing at right-back in the same team with the likes of Norman (Mapeza) and Chitembwe, among an array of other stars.
“I was good and (Dutch coach) Clemence Westerhorf kept telling me that I was going to end up playing in Europe. I really believed him and I put all my effort at training.
“I was a first-choice full-back even after we got promoted into the top-flight. But then something happened.
“After playing almost eight games in the top-tier in which I was one of the stars, I got a slight injury on my shin.
“I had to miss the next three games since two of those matches were scheduled for mid-week.”
It was during that time Muropa had been given time to rest and recuperate that he decided to do backing vocals for musician Staben Mawire.
Having shot to fame with the hit album, “Chimbekeya”, Mawire was a revered songster back then, and Muropa wouldn’t resist the temptation after a big carrot had been dangled by the musician.
So good were his vocals that Paul Mpofu, regarded by many as the greatest jiti musician ever to emerge in this country, would soon raid Mawire and took aboard Muropa.
Meanwhile, Westerhorf was having marathon meetings with the defender-cum-musician to consider coming back to the team.
“Sometimes, I would go to the training sessions and then miss games. Of course, I played several other games in the league, but I was split between football and music.
“The truth is I liked both, but I needed less training in music as my voice was natural. It was flowing and every super musician, including (the late) Leonard Dembo, wanted me in their ensembles.
“I had to make a decision as the longer I took to take either, the more difficult it was for me to perform to the best of my ability in both.”
Muropa would choose football and he immediately decided to turn into a striker.
He did well for a season, but his passion for music had not subsided.
Mapeza, who played alongside him, thinks Muropa would have gone places had he not decided to take off his playing shoes and take up the microphone.
“I know Elton (Muropa) from our days at Darryn T. We grew up together from the juniors and graduated into the first team together.
“He was a very good player. He was one of the best.
“Of course, I cannot tell where he would have ended up had he not quit football, but I maintain he was not bad,” said Mapeza.
With Chitembwe, Stewart “Shutto” Murisa and Muzadzi, who all have respect for Muropa having gone on to make a name for themselves, probably he might have developed into a great player as well.
But after another great musician Cephas Mashakada noticed his vocal prowess while he was with Mpofu, Muropa decided to completely focus on his musical career, terminating a football journey that had looked so bright for him.
As his flawless voice caught attention, Macheso, who was on his way to record his fourth studio album “Zvakanaka Zvakadaro”, lured him to his band in 2001 and Muropa has served the ensemble with distinction to date.
“There are times when I regret ever retiring early from my footballing career, but then I realise quickly that music has given me so much.
“I am sure even if I had gone to play outside the country, what I have at the moment is what I would have bought.”
Mapeza is now a revered coach at South African Premiership football side, Chippa United.
He has won four league titles locally, with Monomotapa once and thrice with FC Platinum.
Muzadzi is a goalkeepers’ coach at Dynamos, Chitembwe mentors Harare City, Murisa helps in the background for CAPS United and Muropa, now an owner of three houses in the capital, is looking forward to do what he knows best for Orchestra Mberikwazvo’s 12th studio album due for release this year.