Sports

Football bragging rights: Which Harare high-density suburb produced the best players?

SHORT CAT . . . Mbare-born legendary shot-stopper Japhet Mparutsa is the first goalkeeper to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in Zimbabwe in 1982

Danai Chitakasha
Special Correspondent
IT is a discussion which often leads to heated exchanges. At stake will be the age old question: “Which high-density suburb in  Harare produced  the most talented footballers?”

It is fair to say, the question give rise to biased and subjective answers. Giving an objective answer might not be possible because football discussions are often rooted in allegiances rather than facts, but let me  give it a go.

My focus will be on the two decades after Independence with the hope of looking at the new millennium in future instalments. I have deliberately chosen Harare, hopefully someone can do the same with Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru so that this becomes a nationwide discussion.

There are many high-density suburbs in Harare and to be fair the majority of players came from these working class residential areas. The big hitters have to be Mbare, Highfield, Mufakose, Mabvuku and Glen Norah. I will leave out Chitungwiza because I consider it as a stand alone town and it will be unfair to bunch it together with the above mentioned.

My main focus will be on these but it will be unfair to leave out Arcadia because from this suburb many legends emerged too. For clarity and simplicity I will look at each department and see who gave us the best.

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My first port of call has to be the goalkeeping department. This is highly contested because so many good goalkeepers emerged from the various  suburbs.

From Highfield there is Laban Kandi, Emmanuel “Shumba” Nyahuma, George Mandizvidza and in the 90s Tendai Tanyanyiwa represented the old suburb well.

And there’s also Tapiwa Kapini who is now a Highlanders legend.

Kandi did duty with Dynamos in the 70s but spilled over into the Independence era.

He also played for Zimbabwe Saints and  Rio Tinto and amazingly is still active as a goalkeepers’ coach, clocking close to 40 years in the game. He is really a legend.

Nyahuma was one of the most underrated goalkeepers of his generation. He played for his beloved Black Aces and was good at saving and taking penalties. He was coolness personified.

The man who wrestled the number one jersey from him was none other than Tanyanyiwa who went on to play for giants Dynamos and Highlanders. He was an acrobatic goalkeeper.

Mandizvidza matured late but one save he made for Dynamos in a Champions League qualifier in Mozambique is regarded as one of the best by a local keeper. His place in the history of Zimbabwean football was secured by that save.

The fans in Mozambique thought it was “juju-inspired” which led to a scuffle for the “juju bag”. Suffice to say, there was no “juju”, just simple gravity defying acrobatics.

And Mufakose? Did Mufakose give us any goalkeeper of note? In a discussion with the legendary midfielder Memory “Gwenzi “ Mucherahowa, he suggested to me Steven Chisango.

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“We grew up seeing bla Steve around so I think he is the most notable keeper from Mufakose. Frank Mkanga did stay in Mufakose for a while but he was not an original resident,” said the frank speaking  former Dynamos captain.

So yes, we have to accept Chisango, the former CAPS United shot-stopper who we can consider as the only worthy representative. A bit strange. Is it not, especially if we consider the teeming talent which emerged in other departments?

Chisango won the league championship  with CAPS United in 1979 and played on into the Independence era. He later surrendered his jersey to Duncan “Zico” Ellison.

From Mabvuku, Brenna Msiska, nicknamed Campos or Baba vaGari topped the list. He was a top ‘keeper who played for Black Aces and CAPS United. I do not think there are other big names who emerged from this suburb. From the environs of Arcadia, we can talk about Nat Bismark,  Peter “Chops” Fanwell and Big Mike Mhlanga. All these were great goalkeepers.

The big beast, however, the one which I think will claim the bragging rights has to be Mbare. The reason for this is simple.  I can talk about Fanny Ariberto, George Usayi, Musa Muzanenhamo and Booker Muchenu but the one who seals the deal for the oldest suburb in Harare is Japhet “Short  Cat” Mparutsa.

By winning the Soccer Star of the Year award at the tender age of 19, he literally puts the matter to bed. Mbare takes this one! At one stage, every young man playing football on the dusty streets wanted to be “Japheee . . .”

That sums the impact that he had.

On the defenders let me show respect to Mufakose by discussing the suburb first.

“We had quality defenders and I think we will walk away with this one!” said my partner in this discussion, “Captain Memo” as I still call him.

I think he has a case.

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Angirai Chapo, Salad Twaliki, Charles “Star Black” Kaseke, Kifton “Somalia” Kadurira, Newman Bizeki, Perkins Nyamutamba, Abel Kolowa, Jonathan Chivhima and David “Bambo” Gwanzura were all top defenders. Chapo especially captained  Dynamos for years and helped to groom many young players. He was a national team player for many years. What a defender!

I have left out Stanley “Samora” Chirambadare because I think he only came to Mufakose post retirement. I think he grew up in Lochinvar.

MAKE MINE A DOUBLE . . . Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma is one of the three Mufakose-born players to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in 1981/85

But Mufakose will have to contend with Highfield which had the likes of Silver “Bhonzo” Chigwenje, David “Maketo” Sengu, Magarika “Maga Dogg” Dzvairo, Canny Tongesayi, Nyasha Kanogoiwa, Oliver “Monitoring Force” Kateya  and yes,  John Mbidzo.

These were top defenders who served their clubs with distinction.

Mbidzo, who went on to play in South Africa, is held in high esteem by the fans in that country. He is a true legend of the game. Legend also has it that the only defender who was able to match the pace and trickery of Peter Ndlovu during his brief sojourn in the league was Nyasha Kanogoiwa.

Sadly his stint with Dynamos was brief but when he played, he covered himself in glory. There was also Nesbert “Yabo” Saruchera and Hussein “Ninja” Hussein.

And yes, who can forget the pace and energy of the man known as “The Monitoring Force”, Kateya. What a player. He was such a jovial character too and is sorely missed.

Allow me to bring in Arcadia once  more at this juncture. Majid Dhana, Reg Payne and Joey “Mafero” Antipas make a strong case for this talent laden suburb.

About Majid Dhana, well he immortalised the statement “take him half way Jimmy!” That was his modus operandi, he was a no-nonsense defender!

Mbare was also strong in the defensive area. I asked legend Japhet Mparutsa and he came up with a solid line up of defenders.

“Yes, we also had quality and the challenge will be to remember them all, “said the legendary goalkeeper. After a scratch of the head by the “Short Cat”, the roll call of honour began.

Henry “Beefy” Chari, Chamu Musanhu, Timothy Chirozvani, John Demanyundo, Henry “Hwezha” Kahwa, Cosmas Kabote, Innocent Chikoya, Peter “Skipper” Manyara, Eddie “Major Murefu” Muchongwe, Ernest “Mr. Cool” Mutano, Simon “AK” Mugabe and Garnet “Ganza “Muchongwe.

I loved Garnett, he was a modern left back, good on the overlap and he put in some inviting crosses in that dangerous space known in football parlance as “the corridor of uncertainty. “They were inviting crosses, what a player!

Let us move on to midfielders.

Mufakose seems to come up tops in this department. Who can argue with a suburb which produced Joel “Jubilee” Shambo, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Clayton Munemo, Memory “Mwendamberi “ Mucherahowa, Moses “Razorman” Chunga  and the flawed genius who was Archieford “Chehuchi “Chimutanda.

With three Soccer Stars in this department, Ndunduma,  Chunga and Mucherahowa I think the deal is sealed  for “Mfombi”,  as the ghetto is known in street lingo.  Should I end the debate then?

Well let me give the other suburbs a chance and see what they have to offer. Mbare will feel hard done because my cut off date is 1980. Without this date, the discussion would have ended with “The Mastermind” — George Shaya. But by 1980 his powers were on the wane.

Unlucky for the old suburb. Shaw “Kojak” Handriade too, a workaholic, tireless and a smart tackler will not be considered because of the chosen date.

Mbare has given us Kuda “Mabla” Muchemeyi, he played well into the 80s  though his career was at its peak in the pre- Independence era.

I will also include Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa (evergreen and a master of the chest control ), Boniface “Keegan” Makuruzo, Clever Hunda, Takesure “Tekizha” Maverengo, Moses “Gweje-Gweje” Chasweka, Stanley “Chola” Manyati, Reuben and Bobby Msambudzi, Anthony “Bryan Robson” Kambani, Big Joe Nyamulani, Misheck “Shava” Mapika, Taurayi and Takawira Pachirera, Leon “Tingo” Linyama, Sam Nzanga, Anyway and Godknows Chamwalila, Clifford “Kiya” Mparutsa, Jack “Dombo” Mutandagayi, Mike “Dutch” Maringa, Louis Sande, Abraham “Bhabhazi” and Enock Chimukango, Lewis “Mangezha” Kutinyu, Alex “Chola” Chasweka, Boniface “Achimwene” Kabwe, Innocent “Mbazo” Musapenda, Walter “Ringers” Musanhu, Tommy and Kenny Kanjanda, and Langton “Govendar” Mutimba.

A line-up with Stix Mutizwa will always have a shout at bragging rights. But Mufakose might just pip them due to having three Soccer Stars in its ranks.

What about Highfield? The ones who come to mind are 1980 Soccer Star of the Year David “Yogi “ Mandigora, Givemore Nyahuma, Arthur “Toots” Tutani, Francis “Gazza “Jayman, Itai Kapini, Rodrick “Doctor” Muganhiri and Davies Mbidzo.

This looks a bit paper thin but having a Soccer Star (Mandigora) on the line up gives “Fio” the right to puff out its chest.

Mabvuku gave us, you know who . . . “Kode from Mabvuku”. There is only one Joe Mugabe, the little General.

The suburb also gave us William Mugeyi. He was versatile and could play as a left-back or defensive midfielder.

Glen Norah gave us Oscar Motsi. The suburb was also unlucky because its stars were unfortunate with injuries. Dear  reader, can you imagine what could have happened if Edwin Farayi and Basil Chisopo’s careers had not been disrupted? I can bet, both would have won the Soccer Star of the Year award at some point. The two were a big loss to our football, cruel injuries, cruel fate!

Arcadia gave us Hamid “Muzukuru” Dhana, the king of the 360 degrees turn, what a player!

It is a toss of the coin in this department, but let me give this to Mufakose!

FROM FIYO WITH LOVE . . . John Mbidzo is one of the most talented football players to emerge from Highfield

Strikers! There is only one suburb to start — Highfield!  Shacky Tauro was not called Mr. Goals for nothing. He scored goals left, right and centre. Yes, it is true what the headlines used to say. “Tauro Hates Goalkeepers!”. The man was a ruthless finisher.

With Mugove Munyorovi on one wing  and Shadreck “Waga Waga” Dzvairo on the other, the Highfield frontline looks a formidable one. Lest I forget, there was  Noah “Zvigubhu” Kapini. He was a hard working striker.

Mufakose had Gift “Ghetto” M’pariwa and in the supporting cast was Mike “Mabhurugwa” Abrahams. I, however, I think Mbare had the creme de la creme.

Percy “Master” Mwase, Stanley “Jaws” Mashezha, Sunday Masauso, David “Broom Boy” George (though admittedly his best years were in the pre-Independence era),  Stuart “Jomo” Kembo, Collins Kabote and the man who was born to bomb, Maronga “The Bomber” Nyangela.

The suburb also produced Gilbert Mushangazhike, Kelvin Mushangazhike and Shelton Mangwende. I loved “Bla Shellaz,” as we called him.

There was Jonah “Zvigubhu” Tasanangurwa who was lethal, so was Pasanduka Pakamisa the man they called “Diesel Engine” “Chaisaneta!, he was tireless!” was what legend Japhet Mparutsa had to say about this legend.

Ian “Dibango” Gorowa also raised the Mbare flag high with his incisive runs down the wing.

The icing on the cake for Mbare has to be Edward “Madhobha” Katsvere on the left wing. Allow me to say a frontline as strong as this deserves to take the crown.

It will be criminal not to mention George “TNT” Rollo. Did he not tear the nets with one shot before declaring: “Tell them that TNT is back!”

The suburb of Arcadia also had the likes of Bethal “Kabhutsu” Salis and Charlie “Kabhasikoro” Jones. They raised the flag  high.

Mabvuku gave us “The Silver Fox”, Wilfred Mugeyi, who was the Soccer Star of the Year in 1992.

Glen Norah had bustling brothers — Francis Nechironga and 1990 Soccer Star of the Year award winner George “Tyson”  Nechironga. These were notable legends of the game.

It has not been an easy task. I have left out a lot of legends but this article is just to initiate the debate. I have also left out those legends who came to certain suburbs in later years, players like Friday “Amayenge” Phiri in Glen Norah, for example. It is evident that each suburb had strength and depth in certain areas.

It is not easy to pick a winner but Mufakose with three Soccer Stars in the decades under discussion might just tip the scale, only just.

Legend Memory Mucherahowa seemed to concur. “I like facts and the fact is that Mufakose had three Soccer Stars!”, he declared.

On that note, I rest my case!

l Additional reporting by Sports Editor Collin Matiza

HERALD