Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
IT all began one fine afternoon in 1979 for former Warriors goalkeeper Brenna Msiska when he was thrust into the starting line-up for the first time in his football career.
The venue was Gwanzura and Msiska had just joined popular Highfield community club Black Aces. Despite hailing from Mabvuku, which is about 30km away, he would call Gwanzura his home for the most part of his career.
Nicknamed “Baba vaGari”, Msiska (61) began his professional career at Black Aces in 1979 in Highfield and played on until the mid-1980s when he moved to giants CAPS United. Both teams adopted the Highfield venue as their home ground although CAPS United later shifted base to Rufaro and then to the National Sports Stadium.
But Msiska loved playing in the 5 000-seater Gwanzura during his career.
The emotional attachment is still strong four decades since his first dance there.
“In all my football career, I just loved playing at Gwanzura. The ground was small, compact and would always be full to capacity, creating such an amazing atmosphere for both the players and the supporters.
“I liked the set up because fans were always closer to the pitch and there was that rapport. The home fans always did everything to give you the lift and you would try to reciprocate by doing things to excite them and that’s when we devised those bags of tricks just to spice-up everything.
“I played many memorable games with Aces and CAPS United at Gwanzura as our home ground. I had several man-of-the-match performances there. Any team that played us at Gwanzura would testify it was not easy beating us at home,” said Msiska.
Sadly, the stadium now resembles a ghost facility due to many years of neglect. Gwanzura has not hosted a Premiership match for five years now after the PSL ruled it was not fit for professional games.
Msiska urged the custodians of the facility, Harare City Council, to live up to their promise after they undertook to restore the ground following a media blitz last week.
The authorities have made similar pledges in the past but with no corresponding action on the ground. The pitch is in deplorable state while the terraces, the changing rooms, the perimeter wall and the ablution facilities have all been left to crumble.
“I was quite saddened the stadium had been left to rot. It was a big injustice to the youth and football lovers in the community. But I am glad that the authorities have said they will renovate it. They should speed up the process and make sure football is played again at the stadium.
“After that they should also move in to restore the nearby Zimbabwe Grounds. I tell you many great players from Highfield and surrounding areas passed through the facilities.
“Gwanzura represented more than just football for the youth in Highfield. Most of the guys played junior and amateur football at the nearby Zimbabwe Grounds.
“It was almost sacred to the Highfield youth to make it to the (Aces) team and get to play in Gwanzura. Just having that stadium there was a huge inspiration for many young people.
“Some of us came from as far as Mabvuku and I tell you it was not easy to make it when you were coming from another area. You had to be extremely good and you had to have a thick skin. But I made it my home ground, I made my name there,” said Msiska.
The CAPS United legend also pleaded with the authorities to pay serious attention to community recreational centres which have also been left to ruin.
The Minister of Sport and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, last week described some of the facilities as having gone to “waste” after touring Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex and Magamba Hockey Stadium.
Msiska agreed with the Minister’s sentiments.
“I hope to see facilities in many other areas being given the attention.
“The community stadiums in Mabvuku that nurtured myself, the likes of Joe Mugabe, Clever Muzuva, William and Wilfred Mugeyi are no longer in good shape.
“The same situation applies to Mbare, Mufakose and many other areas where junior football used to be vibrant. Everything is almost dead.
“It’s difficult to develop grassroots football when the youngsters have nowhere to play the game.
“We have been losing many talents to other occupations like Zim-dancehall,” said Msiska.
Msiska had an eventful career spanning 17 years. Although he never lifted the league title, he won several individual accolades both at Aces and CAPS United.
He played with the likes of Maronga Nyangela, Clever Hunda, July Sharara at Black Aces.
Then in 1986 he replaced Duncan Ellison at CAPS United where he would team-up with the likes of Joel Shambo, Shacky Tauro, Size Torindo, Friday Phiri, Clever Muzuva, Never Chiku and Joe Mugabe.
But then his football career came to an abrupt end in 1996 when he picked up a knee injury in a collision with teammate Steve “Cobra” Chikodzi during a match against Highlanders.
This meant he missed out on the opportunity of winning his only league medal that year as he left the side mid-way through the season to go and coach Black Aces.
“I played with all generations. After I got injured, George Mudiwa stepped in and I was redeployed to the position of goalkeepers’ coach which I left mid-way through the season for Aces.
“It was bad missing out on the league title but that’s football. I had won almost every cup with CAPS United be it the Rothmans Shield, the Castle Cup, ZIFA Cup and many more. I also won the Vaseline Goalkeeper of the Year award among many individual accolades in my career.”
Msiska would not forget the game they lost 9-1 to Dynamos while he was still at Aces. He was named man-of-the-match despite the heavy loss with Henry Chari, Gift Mpariwa and Charles Chirwa on fire for DeMbare
But he rates Moses “Bambo” Chunga as the most lethal striker he ever faced in his career.
“There were many players who would work magic back then. My best player was Archford Chimutanda but then Moses Chunga was something else.
“Unlike the others, he would first look at where you are standing and then with power and precision he placed the ball in areas where you would curse your ancestors as a goalkeeper.”
Msiska has been out of football since he left ZPC Kariba, where he was assistant coach to veteran Sunday Chidzambwa, two years ago.