The first champions from outside big cities

by Sunday News Online | Sunday, Aug 12, 2018 | 213 views
Francis Nechironga

Francis Nechironga

Danisa Masuku

The mere mention of the surname Nechironga invokes some memories to those who love soccer.

Those who watched football in the 1960s will tell you that there was a gem of a player who hailed from the Nechironga family whose name was Jawett George Nechironga.

They will tell you that he was a genius who turned out for the trailblazing St Paul Musami — the first football club from outside Harare and Bulawayo to be crowned champions of the domestic topflight football in 1966.

It took 51 solid years for that jinx to be broken by the Zvishavane-based side FC Platinum, who won the title in 2017 when they were crowned PSL champions.

In 1967 the red-hot St Paul Musami led by the shining light Jawett George Nechironga continued with its crest wave of success as they went on to lift the British America Tobacco (BAT) Cup.

They will tell you that the trio of Jawett George Nechironga,  Felix Mbidzo and James Nxumalo who later on turned out for Highlanders were powerful weapons  for  the side.

The now defunct St Paul Musami FC was based in Musami, Murewa, and some 80 kilometres outside Harare. Sadly Jawett George Nechironga passed on in May 2017 in Harare aged 77 and left large football prints which were to be emulated by his sons (Francis and George).

George is that deadly striker who was voted Zimbabwe’s joint Soccer Star of the Year with Peter Ndlovu in 1990 while he was turning out for Caps United before he turned out for South African side Bloemfontein Celtic after a spell in Poland.

This week Sunday Life Sport focuses on Francis Nechironga who is of the strong belief that his late father played an influential role in as far as shaping his career. He shares how his dad was of influence to his footballing career.

“Our father used to ferry us to the stadium in his Toyota car in the then Salisbury. It was a treat for us,” he says.

His family then moved to Chishawasha Mission where his footballing career kicked into life.

“At school I played soccer and that is when I discovered my footballing talent.  I played up front and that was to be my usual position,” he shares.

He reveals that he attended Chembira Primary School and played soccer there.

“I played for the first team while I was doing Grade Five. The opposition coach used to assign two defenders to mark me. It’s like they saw two people in me,” he says.

He singled out Shackman “Shacky” Tauro who was nick named “Mr Goals” because of his goal scoring prowess as his best player.

“Shacky stayed in Glen Norah where we stayed. Due to his football stature every budding player used to look up to him and he was an approachable guy. From time to time he would give me a piece of advice on how to improve on my playing skills,” he says.

For sure certain things happen by chance and true to him he opened a new chapter in his professional footballing career by chance.

“I had gone to watch Caps Rovers (Caps United) conducting its training sessions at Zimbabwe Grounds. While the team was playing a friend said, ‘Franco, you can play better than most of the guys’ and another one agreed with him.

“Following that they encouraged me to try my luck at Caps. I had to heed to their advice,” he recalls.

He says although he was nervous the following week he had to summon courage and attended training with Caps Rovers.

What did the coach Obadiah Sarupinda say?

“Do you think you can play better than Friday “Amayenge” Phiri? I said I would try, but I knew deep inside that I could not match ‘Amayenge’ because he was one of the prolific strikers. However, I knew that I was better than some of the players,” he says.

He says he trained with the team for four days.

“I trained with the team for four days and I was shocked when I was selected into the first team that was going to do duty on a weekend,” he reveals.

He played alongside Friday Phiri, Joel Shambo, Stix Mutizwa to mention but three.

He says during that year he was selected to be part of Mashonaland Select to play against Matabeleland Select.

“It was a good match for us, we won it,” he says.

His fine performances saw him being drafted in the national Under-20 team.

He capped his fine performances by turning out for the national team when Warriors locked horns with Zambia during the official opening of the iconic National Sports Stadium.

“Playing for the national team goes down as the main highlight of my career because it’s a rare opportunity for a player to be called up for national duty. During that match I played in the wing and we drew against Zambia,” he says.

He says his worst moment was when he failed to make it into the 11 Soccer Stars finalist.

“I was chosen among a large pool of players where the best 11 were going to be picked from. Sadly I failed to make it into the best 11 and that goes down as the worst year  of my career,” he reveals.

He says his worst game was when his side was drubbed by Bulawayo Eagles.

“The game when we were drubbed by Bulawayo Eagles 6-0 goes down as the worst match for me,” he recalls.

In his career, spanning more than a decade, he joined Arcadia United. While he was turning for the side he suffered a knee injury. As a result he had to quit soccer.

“I suffered knee ligaments and I had to quit soccer in 1994 .I then played social soccer and had to quit after a short stint in 1995,”he says.

He is a qualified teacher having attained the teaching diploma at Seke Teachers’ College. He taught for several years at different schools before relocating to Britain where he is based now.

 Fact File
Fransis Nechironga was born in 1964. He is the first born in a family of five. He is married to Faith and the couple was blessed with two children namely Shamiso and Tanaka. He is now a forensic nurse in the United Kingdom, specialising  in psychosis, personality disorders.

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