Magical Stix, sad case of greatness denied

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Charles Mabika Special Correspondent
THERE is no doubt former Warriors skipper, Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa, is one of the finest attacking midfielders produced in this country.

There is also no doubt the ex-CAPS United and Black Rhinos play-maker is one of the best dribbling wizards seen on a football pitch locally.

When Stix starred for the army side in 1988, at the World Military Games in Italy, it was his individual finesse and flair that attracted representatives of Belgian side Eendracht Aalst.

After watching the Zimbabwean midfield magician destroy their own Belgian representative side at the tournament, scoring the only goal of the match, they pursued him.

It didn’t matter to them that Black Rhinos had offered him a contract on his return home.

Dynamos legend, Moses “Bambo” Chunga, went on to join the Belgian side and was an immediate hit there.

Although Stix put pen to paper for the Belgians, mystery still surrounds his non-appearance for the club and he was left dejected after missing a lifetime opportunity.

This would certainly have boosted his profile, fame and fortune.

The nickname “Stix” was fashioned by his schoolmates at Mbare’s Chirodzo Primary School when he was still in Grade One.

It was borne out of the way the ball seemed to “stick” to his feet once he had possession, and he would dribble past the entire opposition, including the goalkeeper, before slotting home.

Infact, during the street clashes after school, Stix’s side would be made up of the conventional 11 players but the opposition would field 12.

They always demanded an extra man because they felt Stix was so good he was always like two players in one.

They call it playing on a handicap in golf.

In one of those international matches in Italy, where the Zimbabwean side held a star-studded Germany side to a 2-2 draw.

It was Stix who scored that goal against Belgium with a masterly move that saw him round off virtually the entire Belgian defence before sliding home past the hapless ‘keeper.

One of the questions that is often asked is whether Stix would have made the grade in Europe, if he had played for E. Aalst.

Another debate is could he have then made a stronger impact, on his return to the Warriors, from there?

He believes he could even have gone on to play for his beloved Liverpool in England.

“I believe that my strongest attributes were my close ball control, dribbling wizardry, passing vision and precision in front of goal.

“If one is equipped with these fundamentals in Europe, there is no way the opposition can easily stop you.

“I mean, just look at the top two players in the world right now — Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi — they possess all these qualities and have been there at the summit for a long time because of that,” said Stix.

Shepherd Murape, now based in South Africa and who was the head coach at Rhinos and in charge of the ZDF squad during those World Military Games, pulled no punches when he declared  Stix would have definitely made the grade in Europe.

“Players like Stix come once in a lifetime because of their rare, skilful pedigree.

“When I coached him at Rhinos and the Warriors, he is the only player I could give a roaming role and say to him: “You do whatever you think is best for us to get goals . . . don’t worry about the coaching instructions I gave at training.

“In the Warriors set-up Stix had the necessary defensive back-up from the likes of Joel “Jubilee” Shambo, David “Yogi” Mandigora and David “Chikwama” Mwanza, so it was easy to let him venture in any direction upfront.

“If he had gone to Europe, he would have certainly acquired the necessary strategic and technical skills, playing alongside and against top quality players.

“He would then have added that much-needed direction to the rest of the team upon his return to the Warriors,” said Murape.

And, former Dynamos captain, Angirayi “Durawall” Chapo, said playing against Stix was a difficult assignment.

“He was a tricky customer to contend with and he would at times switch down the left wing and I would really have to concentrate hard to mark him out.

“Oh, certainly, he would have made the grade in Europe and would have added enormous value to our game at international level.

“You see, the type of game played in Europe during that time suited Stix perfectly.

“Those days teams didn’t employ barricaded patterns. It was a one-on-one type of scenario and Stix would have destroyed most of the opposition there with his immaculate ball control and mesmerising dribbling,” said Chapo.

Stix even finds it funny when people compare him with the late Black Aces midfield genius, Archieford “Chehuchi” Chimutanda.

“Oh, I hear that topic quite a lot and really don’t think much about it and always leave it to the fans to make up their own minds.

“All I can say is that Archie was a great midfield partner when we were together at Glens Strikers.

“We played the same style of attacking football and enjoyed ourselves there and the national team.”

He also revealed that he will always cherish his combination with Hamid “Muzukuru”’ Dhana and Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma at Rhinos but rates his partnership with Shambo at Makepekepe as the greatest ever during his career.

“You see, Joe was the defensive-minded one and I would complement him with the attacking forays upfield.

“We also seemed to have a telepathic understanding because we both knew at the same time when I would open up space for his pass. Oh, it was awesome,” he revealed.

Would he have set up an exciting partnership with Chunga at E Aalst?

“Yes, of course, and it would have been an eye-catching continuation of our Warriors moments,” he said.

It’s sad Stix will never have a second chance to play in Europe.

That’s a real pity, because “You Only Live Twice” refers only to super spy James Bond.