Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
AT the age of 36, soon turning 37, former Zimbabwe Warriors and Highlanders defender Noel Kaseke has no intentions of retiring from football anytime soon with plans to go up to 40.
Kaseke, who turns out for Division One League side Masfut where he has been since August last year has expressed his desire to carry on playing as long as God gives him the strength to prolong his career. The ex-Warriors defender is in the country on a season break.
Does not drink alcohol
Sunday Life sat down with him to find out what has made him stay active in football for all this time which has seen him play abroad since 2002. Kaseke attributed his longevity in the game to discipline because he does not consume alcohol and trains a lot during off season.
“It’s all in God’s hands, I would love to continue playing, taking it year by year, would love to reach 40, I believe I can do it. It’s all in God’s hands,’’ Kaseke said.
Something that he learnt at Highlanders that has kept him going all these years is discipline. Unlike some soccer players who drink a lot of alcohol especially during the off season, Kaseke does not consume any intoxicating stuff and works even harder during the break.
“What I learnt at Highlanders, discipline is very important, to know that my legs are my life so I have to look after them, I don’t drink and don’t smoke, I am family oriented. When I am off season, I train three times a week, go to the gym, do road work, I don’t allow myself to gain weight. In Europe or anywhere else, they expect you to put in more than 100 percent if you are a foreigner. My success is because I have always been hard working. In Dubai it’s more demanding than Europe, they expect the foreigners to carry the team, I am always in good shape,’’ said Kaseke.
He has been lucky when it comes to injuries because the maximum he has been sidelined by injury was four months when he suffered a complete tear of the quadriceps muscle on the left leg in 2011. A knee problem also had him laid off for three months in 2012.
Italian, Brazilian inspiration
Kaseke draws his inspiration from Italians, Paolo Maldini, Christian Zanetti and Francesco Totti who played until 40 years, his greatest motivation to continue playing comes from Brazilian, Ze Roberto who is still playing competitive football at age 42.
“My inspiration comes from the legendary Paolo Maldini, Zanetti from Inter Milan, Totti, the Italians have a way of playing till 40. With how they look after themselves, eat good and rest well. My all time favourite is Ze Roberto from Brazil, played for Bayern Munich, he is still playing past 40 in the Brazil top league,’’ said Kaseke.
Early life, breaking into Bosso first team
Kaseke grew up in Mzilikazi and Makokoba, started playing for Highlanders from Under-12 with the likes of Johannes Ngodzo. When his late father, who used to work for the National Railways of Zimbabwe was transferred to Dete, Kaseke found himself doing his primary school education at Sir Roy Welensky and secondary at Marist Brothers. He did his Advanced Level at Founders where he got seven points from a combination of English, Geography and Ndebele.
His break for the Highlanders first team came in during the 1998/99 season when Bosso won the championship. Because of the tight competition at Bosso during that time, Kaseke, a defensive linkman had to contend with being deployed at right back or in central defence. The team was under the tutelage of Rahman Gumbo and the late Benjamin Moyo as assistant.
Kaseke stayed at Highlanders to win two more championships until he headed to Albania in 2002 where he joined KF Dinamo where he was for one and a half years. After that, he had a three-month stint with an Indian club who were playing in the Asian Champions League. When that ended, he returned home before he tried his luck with South African Premiership side, Bloemfontein Celtic who had former Bosso midfielder Richard Choruma in their books.
Just when he was about to sign for Punya Sele Sele, Kaseke got a call from Enosis Neon Paralimni of Cyprus who had seen him play for KF Dinamo. He was with Paralimni for three seasons in the Cypriot First Division from 2004 to 2007.
While at Paralimni, Kaseke was spotted by Athletic Club Omonia Nicosia where he spent five years between 2007 and 2012. It was at Omonia where he achieved a lot of success on the field of play. Kaseke won the league, Super Cup as well as three FA Cups with the club. He also got to play in the Uefa Champions League qualifiers with Omonia as well as the Europa League.
“I played with Lumana LuaLua and Timo Wenzel of Germany, we had a really strong team. In 2010, I won the European goal of the week for a goal I scored in the league against Anorthosis, I won Player of the Year, Players Player of the Year, Fans player of the Year and was also voted by journalists as the Player of the Year,’’ Kaseke said.
The player, who had reverted back to his favourite position of anchorman at Omonia, captained the club for four years.
Move to UAE
When the financial crisis hit countries like Cyprus and Greece in 2012, Omonia were forced to sell Kaseke to the United Arab Emirates. Kaseke said he had to forfeit everything Omonia owed him for the move to the UA to come to fruition.
His first club in UAE was Al Shaab where he was for a year before his move to Dibba Al-Hisn for three years and has been at Masfut since August last year. Kaseke did not slow down when he moved to Asia as he continued to pick up awards.
“At Al Shaab, I was in the team of the week six weeks in a row sand Player of the Week twice. I was Player of the Year Dibba Al Hisn and in 2015 I was voted in the top three foreigners in UAE. At my current club, I won Player of the Month twice, in February and March. My club finished sixth in a fourteen-team league in the just ended season,’’ Kaseke said.
Like most players, his desire is to venture into coaching when he does eventually retire. Kaseke has enrolled for the Asia Football Association B coaching licence and also has plans to acquire a Uefa B in Cyprus. He wants to start coaching in the UAE before he then moves to Europe and eventually Africa.
“I have enrolled for AFC B, the Uefa B that I will do in Cyprus. If possible I want to go up to Uefa Pro. I would love to start coaching in Asia where I am, then move to Europe, if the opportunity comes I would love to come home to Africa,’’ said Kaseke.
Kaseke is the second born in family of five boys, his father passed away in 2000 while his mother is a teacher at Dominican Convent Primary School. He has been married to Blessing for 15 years with the couple blessed with three boys, the first born Katecho aged 14, the second Karsten is eight while the last Myles is two years old. All his children were born outside Zimbabwe, the first two in Cyprus and last in UAE.
“Out of the three boys, the second and third born look talented in football, certainly that’s where my pension money is,’’ reckons Kaseke.
He does not like talking a lot about what he has acquired from his football proceeds, save for the fact that he has managed to buy a house for his family. He is also mobile. Kaseke does a lot of charity work in Bulawayo as he supports Old People’s Homes as well as Children’s Homes. He believes that since he has been blessed, he has to share that with those with less.
“Football has done a lot for me, I have been blessed, that is why I do charity, work it made me realise how blessed I am more than others. I support Old People’s Homes and Children’s Homes, I have been doing it for six years where they fall short, I buy foodstuffs and nappies. I have managed to acquire a house for my family where I can hide my head every time I come home,’’ Kaseke said.
Never been sent off
Kaseke, who played for the senior national team from 2007 to 2012, has never been sent off during his entire football career. He attributes that to being able to read the game and adopt a good mentality when he gets booked.
“I have never been sent off from Under-12, discipline has done it for me. I have always watched football from all over the world. When I get a yellow card, I change my mentality and never get a second yellow card,’’ he said.
Views on current Highlanders team
Kaseke feels that the current crop of Highlanders players have it easy since it appears much effortless to make it into the team nowadays than it was when he made it in 1999. So far, Kaseke has watched Bosso in action against Bantu Rovers, Chicken Inn and Triangle. His view is that their best performance he has seen was their 2-0 victory over Triangle last Sunday.
“When I broke into Highlanders first team I competed with quality players. It’s now too easy to make it into the Highlanders first team, even if a player loses form, they still make it into the team. During our days competition was high. I watched them play against Bantu, Chicken Inn and Triangle. Their best performance was against Triangle,’’ Kaseke said.
He is convinced that Highlanders can win the championship this season as he has not seen any team that is way better than them. He has been impressed by coach Erol Akbay who seems to be encouraging his players to start play from the back. Kaseke also had some words of advice to Bosso’s up and coming striker, Prince Dube, whom he urged to stay focused on his game.
“Prince is very much promising, as long as he keeps his head down, remains humble, he must not think he has arrived. He must have the same hunger and dedication. I haven’t seen any team that is much better than Highlanders, it’s all in their hands. Akbay is a good coach, it’s never easy to teach and instill your players to initiate moves from back, the coach wants them to play football,’’ he said.
While he enjoys his season break in his motherland, Kaseke is doing all he can to stay in good shape for more challenges that lie ahead of him as he seeks to continue playing football.