THERE are some people who deserve special mention in Zimbabwe football. One of them is Ali “Baba” Dube, a respected figure in junior coaching circles.
Alibaba as he is fondly known, has a sharp eye of seeing a rough diamond and has that magical touch of turning that rough diamond into gold. Bosso is littered with a number of stars that passed through his magical hands.
I strongly believe if one of the finest right backs ever to emerge in Zimbabwe — Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda — was alive he would admit that he owed his success to Alibaba.
Rambo would tell you that for him to make that commanding presence in the star-studded Highlanders first team and in that highly revered Dream Team, it was all due to Alibaba whose rich football teachings worked wonders for him and most of the players who passed through his hands.
Even that gem of a midfielder, the late Benjamin “Makanaky” Nkonjera, would doff his cap at the legendary junior talent identification coach. The now Mamelodi Sundowns manager and close friend of Nkonjera, Peter Ndlovu who is also ranked as one of the best strikers to ever dazzle Zimbabwe soccer is also a product of this football legend.
Some of the Bosso’s talent that went through the magical hands of Alibaba were Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, Adam Ndlovu, Madinda Ndlovu, Mckay Nyathi and Mpumelelo “Era Muna” Dzowa, among others.
Themba Lunga is another fine talent that went through the hands of the legendary Alibaba junior football teachings and in that class there was Dumisani “Savimbi” Nyoni, Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda and Fanuel Ncube, among others. Lunga graduated to the senior team in 1981.
He was part of the cast that boasted of quality in Douglas “British” Mloyi, Mark “Juluka” Watson, Alexander “Cool ruler” Maseko, Madinda “Khathazile” Ndlovu, Fanuel Ncube, Peter “Oxo” Nkomo.
Lawrence “Lofty” Phiri was the head coach. Lunga reminisces of the good times he enjoyed under the astute leadership of Phiri.
“I was in Form Three when I made my debut into the first team in 1981. I was slim and tall. Due to my talent the coach had to throw me upfront. I’m thankful to Mark (Watson) who took me under his wings as he told me to give my everything as that was the only opportunity to be a regular in the first team,” he recalls.
He reveals one secret about Highlanders that made players give their all in the field of play.
“Most times Lawrence Phiri used to tell us that playing for Highlanders was something special and Bosso is a big club that commands a great following. He also used to preach to us that we have to adopt a never die spirit, as a result we had to give everything to win matches,” he says.
Lunga was fondly nick-named “Mzwazwa” because he was slim and tall. He reveals what lightened the mood in the camp.
Who knew that Madinda Ndlovu could sing? Yes, Madinda the Highlanders coach. So Madinda is not only gifted in football but also in singing.
“We used to enjoy lighter moments at the camp. One of the characters that made camping enjoyable was Madinda Ndlovu and Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda. They would start a song and the rest of the team would join in. Even Mark (Watson) would sing and that electrified the mood,” he reveals.
He adds: “The two had good voices and it was known that they were the ones who would start a song because some of us were not gifted in singing, we would utter horrible disjointed words. Douglas Mloyi was one of the comical guys who set the mood alight with his rib cracking jokes during our trips to away fixtures.”
He says the match that goes down as his best was when he was the toast of the day as he scored the solitary goal when his side clashed against Rio Tinto.
“On that particular day I played one of my best games and I had to cap it with a fine performance and scored the only goal of the match,” he says.
He says his worst game was when he missed a golden opportunity when his side locked horns with Hwange FC.
“I missed a chance where it was easier to score than to miss. Following that the coached dressed me down for that silly mistake,” he recalls.
After a three-year stint with Bosso he left for green pastures in Botswana to join Gaborone United in 1984. But he reveals that the move suffered a still birth.
“I was lured to play for Gaborone United by my long- time friend Chris Lunga but somehow the club hierarchy said they no longer had a slot for a foreigner. That is how I failed to play for that team,” he reveals.
But he never gave up and he then joined a Division One side Sebele United where he spent three months. He left and joined a PSL outfit BDF 11 FC where he spent seven years.
“Zimbabwe has more depth than Botswana. This is also backed by the number of silverware that Zimbabwe has clinched so far than what Botswana has achieved at national level. But there is marked improvement, soon Botswana will be a soccer power house because government has poured money towards the development of soccer and there are more soccer academies which have been started.”
He also had a spell with Mogoditsane Fighters FC before he joined Nico United FC where he spent three seasons. During a stint with Nico United FC he suffered an injury, as a result he had to call time on his career in 2002.
He then did coaching courses and right now he is a holder of Caf C licence holder.
Themba Lunga was born on 1 November 1965. He was born in a family of three. He attended Magwegwe Primary School and Sobukhazi Seconday School. He is blessed with two children, Kely Keletso Eunice (27) and Kelvin (23).
Lunga is based in Francistown and is a football coach for a Division Two outfit Tonota FC. He is an Adventist Church member. wo