Hwange Football Club has a rich football history and has produced a number of football greats who brought smiles and joy to the coal mining community and the neutrals alike.
Some of the yester year stars who went on to put the coal -mining town on the football map are Masauso Zulu, a brilliant footballer who played with the likes of Daniel Rendo, Michael Lungu, Daniel Tembo, John ‘‘Seven Days’’ Banda, Cyprian Ngoma, Jerry Mzondwa, Obert Agayi and Mwape Sakala in a star-studded Hwange side.
That generation passed the baton to another generation till it got in the hands of the generation of Fabian Zulu, Alick Nyoni and Nation Dube who is the Hwange head coach and the side is now fighting for a quick return to PSL.
Nyoni was touted as a good reader of the game and was also good in ball distribution. This is one player who showed loyalty and dedication to Chipangano as Hwange are popularly known. He spent quality 14 years with the coal-mining team.
“My association with Hwange dates back to the time when I was a teenager. I used to frequent its training sessions, as a result I grew to love the team. A bit later on it happened that Weekly Mwale who was Hwange senior team head coach spotted me when I was playing for Hwange High School team. He then invited me for training sessions with the outfit’s Under-14 side and I attended, that was to mark the beginning of long journey with Hwange of which I do not have any regrets about,” he says.
It is no doubt that the Hwange football loving community regards Nyoni as one of their legends and many doff their hats at him in honour of his unrivalled dedication and contribution to the team that occupies a big portion of his heart.
The former Hwange defensive linkman had to fight for the jersey against skilful Tavaka Gumbo, the towering Simon Ndlovu and Chingumbe Masuku. He says it was tough to dislodge Gumbo from his position. As a result he rates Gumbo as one of the best players ever to turn turnout for Chipangano.
“He was gifted with ability to read the game and control the tempo of the match. That is why he caught the interest of the national team coaches later on when he was turning out for the now defunct Shue Shine FC,” he reveals.
Nyoni started turning for Hwange Under-14 and rose through the ranks to make a grade in the senior team. In that squad he played alongside Tavaka Gumbo, Brian Njobvu, Taboniswa Ncube, Chenjerai Dube, Walter Chuma, Juma Chitonje, Amon Mukozho, Chabuka Mwale and Nation Dube.
Nyoni explains why Hwange Stadium was regarded as the Lion’s den.
“A message of intent was inculcated in our minds that akuphunywa egodini (Hwange Colliery Stadium). It became our culture. We lived it and believed it. As a result that helped us to play with determination and zeal so as not taint the long lived legacy that Hwange FC was known for. Moreover, we were used to high temperatures, and most of the teams failed to cope with such temperatures as a result in most matches we emerged victorious,” he reveals.
While turning for the Hwange Under-18 Nyoni caught the interest of the Under-20 national coaches where he helped the national team side clinch the Cosafa Cup.
His dedication and top drawer performances at his club saw him being entrusted with the captain’s armband for five successive seasons.
“Being a leader of a team is no mean achievement but it comes with a huge responsibility of inspiring the team to winning ways. For me it was not a difficult task because there was team work and a spirit of fighting for a common goal,” he says.
He reveals that his major highlight was when he helped his side march over Caps United in a PSL encounter at Hwange Colliery Stadium. He scored a winning goal and was the man of the match.
“I scored the second goal and provided an assist that made us win the match by 3-1 and I was selected as the man of the match,” he says.
A match against Highlanders goes down as his worst match ever. He explains why.
“We were playing against Highlanders when I tried to clear the lines, unfortunately I twisted my right knee and sustained a career ending knee injury which thereafter forced me to retire from playing football at the age of 34,” he reveals.
Nyoni played under the guidance of the following coaches — Weekly Mwale, Paul Moyo, David Phiri, Tenant Chilumba and Nation Dube.
He says although those coaches were good, he rates Paul Moyo as his best.
“He was a tactician who could interact well with us (players) and was a motivator which was a plus for him to raise our morale and we gave our best to impress him and our ardent supporters,” he says.
The only dent to his 14-year dance with Chipangano is that PSL title was elusive. He has one cap with the senior national team having played in independence celebrations in Botswana. After quitting soccer in 2010 he started coaching Hwange FC reserve side but just recently he was assigned to mentor the Under-13 and 17 where he is working alongside Milos Phiri.
After the Chipangano side was relegated to less fashionable Division One side he says life in the coal-mining town is horribly boring.
“The football loving community of Hwange used to enjoy entertaining PSL action since PSL teams used to come here for PSL encounters but after the relegation of our team life is boring. Despite that we are hopeful our team which is our pride and treasure will bounce back soon to top flight league,”he says.
He says football scouts should cast their net wider to Hwange as it has abundant untapped football talent.
“Football scouts should come here, there is a lot of promising budding talent,” he says.
He was born in family of 10 children — five boys and five girls. He is married to Faith and the couple is blessed with four children namely Ryan (8), Alicia (15), Alick Jr (17) and Palma (20). He works at the Hwange Colliery Company as an operative fitter under the department of coke works. They worship at Roman Catholic Church.