I was reading an article in the Herald newspaper by deputy sports editor Peter Kausiyo on Zhaimu Jambo the Kaizer Chiefs left back who was forced to retire at the tender age of 26 due to a horrific knee injury.
Eddie Chikamhi another reporter from the same stable recently revisited the same issue and talked about Jambo’ s heart- break at having to give up his career at such a young age. What made it even more heart rending was the fact that he sustained the injury after a crude tackle from best friend Tinashe Nengomasha, the former Zimbabwe captain.
Zhaimu was however quick to point out that although devastated, he was not bitter and was now focused on pursuing a new career so he can look after his young family.
This article made me consider other promising footballers who threatened to take the football fraternity by storm but whose careers came to an abrupt end due to injuries or in some instances even death. In this regard , the article will not focus on those who passed on after their playing days were over but rather on those who were snatched from our midst just when they had started to blossom.
For we already know what the likes of Joel Shambo, Shacky Tauro, Willard Khumalo, Mercedes Sibanda, Adam Ndlovu, Benjy Nkonjera among others could do on the pitch. We might speculate about their potential as coaches or administrators but their talent as players was fulfilled. It is to the unfulfilled talent that I will pay attention.
Samson “Sister” Choruwa announced himself on the local football scene with some devastating displays for Dynamos. These were the days of the famed “Kidsnet Project” so named because the players were relatively young. Moses “Bambo” Chunga , the then Dynamos coach had the bravery to play the young boys at a club which has the most demanding supporters in the league.
The supporters crave instant success and young players are bound to feel the pressure of playing for such a huge club. Chunga went against received wisdom and thrust these boys into action. What followed were some exciting displays and Samson became pivotal in this team of youngsters. He played as an attacking midfielder and was well supported by the likes of Eddie Mashiri, Leo Kurauzvione and Norman Maroto among others.
Samson was the star of the cast and I will always remember the goal he scored against Mhangura in a league match at Rufaro Stadium. He played a one –two with a colleague, dribbled past one defender, feinted to shoot before curling the ball into the far corner of the goal.
I hope the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation [ZBC] has a copy of this goal, it was a class act. I loved the goal because it was deliberately created, it was not an accident and it showed Samson as a thinking footballer. After the goal, everyone knew about Samson Choruwa and then the injury struck.
In a match against Masvingo at Mucheke Stadium, Godfrey “Mai Mahofa” Dondo lunged into a tackle which damaged Samason’s knee. His career ended with that unfortunate tackle and Dynamos and Zimbabwe were deprived of a rising star. He was only 21 and despite numerous attempts to make a comeback, his efforts were in vain.
His treatment regime might have been mismanaged with claims that Dynamos wanted to use a Sangoma to treat him rather take him to a knee specialist. If that is the case, then it beggars belief but what I know is that Dynamos’ loss was the nation’s loss. They should have managed this jewel better. Could he have been as good as a his mentor Moses Chunga ? We will never know but I am tempted to think so.
Another player who had so much potential but whose career was cut short by injury is Edwin Farai. Edwin was a defensive linkman for Caps United sometime back in the late 1980’s. He had emerged from the Caps United reserves to claim a place in a midfield department which had the likes of Anthony “Robson” Kambani, Oscar “Simbimbino” Motsi and the “ Headmaster” Joel “Jubilee” Shambo in the mix. This was royal company to be.
Odediah “Wasu” Sarupinda , the then Caps United coach had seen it all in football but the emergency of Edwin excited him. He declared that he had unearthed the best passer of the ball since Archford Chimutanda. Yes Edwin was a master passer with immense ball skill.
Odediah urged the football fans to come to Gwanzura stadium to witness this rising star. We flocked to the old stadium but the match was washed away because of the rain. Was that symbolic, it was a false start. We never got to see the new star but our appetite was wetted. It was the last match of the season so we had to wait.
The next season I was not disappointed as Edwin established himself as a kingpin in that midfield. Even midfield dynamo, Anthony Kambani was finding it hard to wrestle the shirt from him, then injury struck. A tackle by Clayton Munemo damaged his ankle and he was forced to retire at the age of 23.
Staying with Caps United, I remember Basil Chisopo whose promising career was also cut short. Basil was a dribbling wizard and Charles Mabika , the ageless football commentator gave him the moniker “Chisipo” for his slippery moves. He was a big loss for the club and the nation. His injury opened a can of worms as he took the club to court for compensation. The matter of insurance came to the fore again.
Netsai Moyo was good enough to be nicknamed “Super Netsai” although he played for a short period for Highlanders . Those who follow this great club rate him among the top ten players to have donned the black and white jersey. This is no mean feat if we consider the number of legends who have been churned by this team.
An knee injury put paid to a potentially great career. In the same breath I can also talk about Alois “Shaw” Godzi, a player of immense talent for Dynamos. Despite playing for only three years for Dynamos , his name is still mentioned together with other greats who donned the blue jersey. A knee injury coupled with ill discipline and a premature death robbed Zimbabwe of a great midfielder.
Desmond “Gazza” Maringwa and Johannes “Signature” Ngodzo are among the greatest midfielders to emerge from our football fraternity. These two’s great talents were never fully fulfilled because of the injuries that they suffered early in their careers. They were both injured while playing for the Zimbabwe national team.
The injuries seemed innocuous at the time but they proved to be stubborn. Through sheer determination, Desmond was able to have a decent career at Dynamos but it is my firm belief that he deserved better. Without the injury , a career abroad was definitely on the cards. The same can be said about Johannes, his talent deserved a move abroad.
In the history of Zimbabwe football, death has visited with heart-breaking regularity. The sport has lost some gallant sons, this calls for a separate article. I will focus here on Blessing “Yogo Yogo” Makunike, Gary Mashoko ,Shingie Arlon of Caps United and Watson “Kabila” Muhoni of Dynamos, players whose careers ended in mid stream.
Blessing Makunike was one of the best attacking midfielders to emerge from Caps United. By the time of his death, he had been made the captain of the team a recognition of his growing influence
in the team. That tragic accident that claimed his life together with rising star defender Gary Mashoko and goal poacher Shingie Arlon left a yawning gap in the team and in the football fraternity at large.
Any mention of Watson Muhoni to Dynamos supporters will result in tears being shed. Such is the heartache they still feel on the loss of this tough as teak defender. He was a destined for the top but a road accident robbed the nation of a potential future captain..what a loss!
Indeed injuries and death have robbed the nation of some potentially great players. We will never know how good they could have been but their start had filled us with hope. Maybe they would have faltered along the way but I am convinced that without the intervention of cruel fate, Zimbabwe football would have been richer