CHANCES are high you might never have heard of Francis Moyo, let alone remember him play football because his exploits on the football pitch were confined between 1981 and 1983.
Yet if you had seen him, it is also fair to say you might never have forgotten what it was like when he had a ball at his feet. Moyo is the player nobody mentions when they talk of the likes of Max Makanza, Dumisani Nyoni, John Sibanda, Garikai Rwodzi, Charles Murehwa and George Nyirenda, that group at Bulawayo Wanderers, who eventually became football legends.
The then 16-year-old Moyo played against players such as Willard Khumalo, “Maxmillion” Boy Ndlovu, Godfrey Paradza, Peter Phiri as well as Victor Moonsammy in junior football and for a while the coaching staff at Bulawayo Wanderers tipped him for greatness. He was a versatile player who was comfortable in any position — he was mostly used at left back, but at times he could play right back, centre back and defensive midfield.
“I was left back most of the time, however, at times I could find myself at right back or centre-back and at rare times I was the defensive midfielder. I was the team’s utility player. Even though I played with players that went on to become big names in football I never felt I was out of my depth. I was good enough,” he said.
The talented player and intelligent defender cemented his place in the Wanderers team in 1983 but eventually rejected the chance to be a footballer at one of the clubs credited with nurturing some of Bulawayo’s finest football players in order to play volleyball.
“I was invited by the volleyball coach, Silas Nyabadza, when we had no soccer game one weekend as he felt I was also good at playing volleyball. That’s how I moved to volleyball. After a few training sessions and one game I decided to abandon football because I found volleyball less demanding.
“The other reason is because I got into the provincial volleyball team that played in the Zone 6 games which was my first volleyball tournament. I also represented Matabeleland several times in the youth games being coached by our old man then, Nicholas Mavhunde,” said Moyo.
Representing Matabeleland was the trigger for the defender, who would go on to become a great volleyball player; as he accepted a career in football was not suited to him, even though he never feared not making it at the top of the sport. Moyo also accepts a life of playing two sports was not what he envisaged — so he chose volleyball.
“After I quit football I played volleyball until very late in my life. I played for Olvers later known as Wild Geese Volleyball Club, Sparrows then Highlanders. I had no fixed position since volleyball is an all-round sport except for the setter position. I was lethal in attack in any formation. I was also an excellent ball passer in defence,” he said.
Moyo did not only play for Highlanders Volleyball Club, he was one of the founder members of the club.
“I am one of the founder members of Highlanders, I coached and played for the club. I had played for other teams then some players and I decided to form Highlanders. I was appointed the Matabeleland Volleyball Association chairperson in 1988 to 1989 while I was still at Highlanders. During the same period I was a member of the Zimbabwe Volleyball Association. I later became Midlands Volleyball Association chairperson around 1992-1993 periods. I also coached the David Whitehead and the Midlands provincial team,” he said.
Moyo believes the discipline required to be a good defender helped to become a success in volleyball.
“I enjoyed the experience in a sense, football was very good to me. I certainly learnt a lot about playing with a bit more pressure and discipline was needed to be successful in everything I did. Football was a good learning curve, it didn’t put me off, but it made me realise it was not the life I wanted. It was not the same as playing volleyball so it was eye opening in the other direction’’.
Naturally, Moyo thinks about what would have happened if he had made a different decision, if he had decided volleyball was not as stimulating as football or if he didn’t have the choice of being able to go down the volleyball route in life.
“It was a really tough decision. I was asked a lot of times why I did it, but I never regretted it. I thought I would see how volleyball was like and I never regretted it. If I could make the decision again, I wouldn’t change it, it was the right one for me, even if it’s not for everyone,” he said.
What makes Moyo proud is that his move to volleyball inspired many of his childhood friends to play the sport.
“Some of my friends went on to represent Zimbabwe in many international games. Guys like the late Jairos Nyirenda, the late Jeffrey Mlauzi, Togara Machokoto, Nsikelelo Mlauzi (not related to Jeffrey),” he revealed.
Today, Moyo is a successful businessman who operates a business complex in Mutare. The complex with 21 rooms is called Shumba Complex, it was built in 11 months — a record time according to a council employee. But where did he get the money to build a business complex in 11 months, surely not from playing and administering volleyball?
“I was employed at Mimosa Mine in Zvishavane as a ventilation technician. A ventilation tender came out at Mimosa and I just applied, explaining that I am experienced since I was doing what the tender was seeking. Since the company was happy with my work, the board of directors directed the company to give me the tender. For Mimosa it was all about empowering its employee, Mimosa is all about empowerment.
“I believe what happened was because of God’s blessings. I come from a praying family and I am a praying man, we are Seventh Day Adventists. It seems everything I do or touch turns into gold. I was a junior guy at Mimosa but somehow I got the tender. In addition I used to show initiative so that must have helped. It is the money I made that I used to build the complex after I left Mimosa in 2013,” Moyo said.
The 52-year-old will never know what might have been with his football career, the one certainty is that his time as a player would have been memorable, as he knows a thing or two about manipulating a ball and making the right decisions.