For Stix, it was so close, yet so far

Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa

Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
MAYBE, it was never meant to be — the fairy tale which, unfortunately, didn’t come to pass.

Two of the country’s finest footballers, Moses Chunga and Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, playing for the same side in Europe.

Far away in Belgium for Eendracht Aalst.

Both signed contracts, and were given visas to fly to Europe, but Mtizwa never showed up to catch the flight to Belgium.

Chunga even waited at the airport, but eventually, left without any clue whatsoever about what had happened to Mtizwa.


Even up to now, Mtizwa has that contract, signed at Jameson Hotel in 1988, between him and the Belgian team’s representatives who eventually accompanied Chunga to Europe.

The former CAPS United and Black Rhinos star doesn’t have any clue, whatsoever, about what actually became of the deal.

His usual smile evaporates, as he attempts to speak about the joy that transformed into a nightmare, he has tried to suppress over the decades.

“To be honest, I don’t know what happened. I had packed my luggage since I had signed the contract,’’ he told The Saturday Herald.

“The driver who had been tasked to come and pick me up at my house never showed up.

“It was hell.

“You know, when such an opportunity presents itself, you always want to grab it with both hands.

“I was prepared to showcase my talent in Europe.

“But, it’s a dream that never was.

“I was going to play alongside my good friend Moses ‘Bambo’ Chunga in Europe. We had only played alongside each other in the national team.


“Outside, it was always war — CAPS United versus Dynamos and, after that, Black Rhinos versus Dynamos — derbies . . .”

The Belgians had come to Zimbabwe after being impressed by Mtizwa when he turned on the show at the World Military Games in Italy.

So good was Mtizwa, in that Zimbabwean side that also had William Chikauro, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma and Simon “AK 47” Mugabe, all scouts ended up following him.

But, it was when the Zimbabwe side posted a 2-2 draw against a Germany team boasting top talent like Jurgen Klinsmann and Thomas Hassler, that everyone at the tournament really took serious notice of the unassuming Mtizwa.

“If I am given a choice to pick my best game in my footballing life, I would choose that one,’’ said Mtizwa.

‘’That Germany team, which we held at the World Military Games in Italy, is virtually the same side that went on to win the World Cup in 1990.

“That match was played at a high tempo. It was a classic. I remember almost every detail of it.

“After that match, we played against Belgium and we won 1-0.

‘’I scored the only goal of that match. It was then that a certain man approached me and asked if I would be interested in playing for Eendracht Aalst to which I replied, without a moment to ponder, that I was more than willing.”

He never saw that man again until the team returned home.


Then, a fortnight later, he was surprised to hear that Black Rhinos were supposed to take on Black Mambas at Morris Depot, in what the army side described as a “Special Friendly tie” to entertain some visitors.

“I never thought it was Eendracht Aalst representatives who wanted to have a second look at me.

“I just thought it was some other visitors. I just did what I always did . . .”

Just a quarter of an hour into that match, the Belgians told then Black Rhinos coach, Ashton “Papa” Nyazika, they had been satisfied with what they had seen.

They even joked they had no problem even if the referee ended that match.

They never waited to watch the full game as they rushed to their hotel to prepare to go to Rufaro, after they had gotten wind there was another star at Dynamos (Chunga).

The Glamour Boys were playing a league match that evening and the representatives were blown away by Chunga’s performance.

“A day later they called me and asked me to sign a contract with them and that’s how I also got to know Chunga had also been signed.”

As fate would have it, Mtizwa didn’t end up in dreamland even though the Aalst representatives had visited Zimbabwe with one mission — to sign the then Black Rhinos midfield mainstay.

Mtizwa looks back and thinks probably it was how his career was supposed to be.

There are different theories.

One is that Nyazika blocked Mtizwa’s move to Belgium as the army side were on the brink of winning the league title and “Papa” didn’t want to lose one of his key players.

Nyazika “literally hero-worshipped” Mtizwa and took him “as his son” since he was the same coach who discovered the midfielder at lower division side Glens Strikers before they moved together to join CAPS United and then Rhinos.

Only six years earlier, Mtizwa had been at the centre of a protracted wrangle between Makepekepe and Black Rhinos.

Mtizwa had been signed by Rhinos, who wanted him to help them get promotion into the Super League.

But, Makepekepe, who had been the poor victims of Rhinos’ market charge, negotiated with the army side to either take Mtizwa alone, and leave Chikauro and Ndunduma, for that season.

Rhinos decided to take the two.

Mtizwa only joined Rhinos when they were in the Premiership in 1984 and helped them win the league title.

He was also the chief architect of the Rhinos dominance in 1987, a year before his Belgian deal collapsed in mysterious fashion. The other theory is that the Belgians, once they saw Chunga, decided they didn’t need Stix.

Whatever the case, one of the best footballers to emerge on the domestic scene, missed his golden chance to play in Europe.