The Sunday News
FORTUNE Chisale, South Africa-based Bulawayo soccer player intermediary has compared former Sobukhazi, Highlanders FC and Shushine star Vivian “Sturu” Mushekwa to Zinedine Zidane.
Zidane is ranked among the best footballers ever and won the World Cup with France and picked up countless pictures of silverware.
Sturu at his best is remembered for captaining Peter Ndlovu, Isaac Riyano, Dampion Ngwenya, Nkululeko Dlodlo, Dampion Ngwenya, Ian Khumalo, Nqobani Ncube, Sikhumbuzo Ndebele, Vusa Nkomazana, Makwinji Soma-Phiri and Benjamin Nkonjera in the 1988 Highlanders Under-18 team. Under coach Ali Dube, the side was a must-watch curtain raiser between 1988 and 1989 playing with so much flair and conviction that to this day, many compare the team to the 1982 crop that produced Godfrey Paradza, Willard Khumalo, Summer Ncube, Hagai and Netsai Moyo, Oliver Shoko, Francis Muringayi and Barbs Ncube.
The 1982 gang was nicknamed Liverpool after the British side a dominant force in the English First Division since 1977 with remarkable stars like Graeme Souness, Emily Hughes and Ray Clemence. Their dominance is something entrenched in local football folklore by even other teams’ supporters.
“Zinedine Zidane is the only player equal to Vivian Mushekwa. He captained the legendary Peter Ndlovu, Nkululeko Dlodlo, Makwinji Soma-Phiri, Nkululeko Dlodlo, Sijabuliso Ndlovu and Benjamin Nkonjera,” said Chisale.
To have captained Peter Ndlovu with coaches having seen leadership qualities in him is testimony of the potential Mushekwa had. Many argue that Riyano, Makheyi Nyathi and Sturu were the best of the 1988 Under-18 team. He was a marvel, skilful and playing with the aplomb of a veteran.
His leadership was not a drop in the ocean as he had also been captain of the Sobukhazi school team that had players such as Makwinji, Dlodlo, Sijabuliso and Nyathi. A lot was expected of him in years to come.
Sadly when the roll call was announced at the hour of need with Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo, Mercedes, Alexander Maseko, Ronnie Jowa, Tito Paketh, Tanny Banda, Rahman Gumbo and Boy Ndlovu having left the senior team, his name did not appear on the register.
Him and Riyano had slipped off the talent drag net, Bosso had lost two youngsters who appeared destined to greatness. With their peers Peter and Nkonjera rising to be the foundation of Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream Team, many believe with Riyano having had call ups and was capped, it is the same route that Mushekwa had Ali Dube preparing him for.
While he may have won the Division One title, his cabinet is dominated with silverware won at junior level with Highlanders FC. Riyano described him as a good player.
“We played together from juniors at Highlanders up to Under-18 and we left at the same time to join Shu Shine. When we got relegated from the Premier League he decided to go to South Africa. He was a good player,” said former midfield maestro who also shone in AmaZulu and Lancashire Steel colours.
Riyano and Tavaka Gumbo became the first players from a Zvishavane club to play for the Warriors and also grace the once prestigious Soccer Star of the Year X1 calendar.
His Under-18 team was a near faultless machine that conquered most of what came before it and had even fared well in national tournaments.
“We fared pretty well in the Zifa Cup and Natbrew Cup beating the likes of Dynamos, Tornados and Black Rhinos.
Dynamos used to give us a torrid time. They beat us 3-1 at Gwanzura Stadium as Bosso Under-16s with Simon Chuma running rings around me at left back.
“The return leg was at Barbourfields Stadium and they found us at another level with Peter Ndlovu and Nkululeko Dlodlo mesmerising their defence and we won 6-0 for a 7-3 aggregate win,” said Mushekwa.
Growing up in Mzilikazi’s Ó’ Square, Mushekwa used to watch in awe and admiration the Bosso team of 1975-76 dress up at the late club Patron and benefactor Tafi Moyo’s house where the team would camp or dress up for matches.
He recalls Phana Mthimkhulu and Macdonald Silongwe among some of the club’s players of the late 1970s and early 1980s tucking them into their vehicles’ boot to smuggle the boys into Barbourfields Stadium for a free watch.
“This motivated us to be the players we got to be,” he said.
Born 26 June 1971 in Bulawayo, Mushekwa attended Mzilikazi Primary School and proceeded to footballing powerhouse Sobukhazi.
It was fashionable for the football talented to be poached or opt for Sobukhazi during those days.
Many footballers from Mzilikazi and surrounding suburbs opted for the school and it became a powerhouse of repute in schools soccer with many of the boys proceeding to play for Bosso, Chikwata and Olympics.
“I joined Highlanders juniors in 1986 from Merlin Husky. I was identified by Ali Dube who invited me to join Highlanders,” said Mushekwa.
An exciting talent throughout his days at Highlanders, Sturu believes had he stayed at Highlanders who could have been a bigger hit.
“If I had stayed at Highlanders I could have made a name for myself but Shu Shine offered me a contract I could not refuse, so I took it,” said the former left back and utility player.
As a youth he got selected to represent Matabeleland against Mashonaland in trials for the national team.
He said Barreto had promised to draft him and Riyano into the Bosso first team as months went by with no action, they found themselves joining the busmen.
He said he was offered almost $11 000 as signing on fees, half of which he gave to his grandmother who raised him with the other buying furniture for the house he was given in Zvishavane by Shu Shine.
Another incentive was training as a motor mechanic with the club.
Mushekwa had completed his O-levels in 1988. When the lads joined Shushine, the club was in Division One and they were given the mandate to get the team in the elite division — Super League in three years. That they achieved in 1991. He described speedy Dynamos winger Simon Chuma as having been his most difficult opponent and Hwange dribbling wizard Fanyana Mguni as having been the other opponent he never liked to face on the field.
Mushekwa quit Zimbabwe football in 1991 for greener pastures. Because of Shu Shine’s refusal to give him a clearance letter, Mushekwa decided to call it quits from the game in which he appeared to be destined for greater heights. Former teammate at Highlanders juniors, Sikhumbuzo Ndebele described Mushekwa as a very good talent.
Tavaka Gumbo who was his teammate at Shu Shine said Sturu was a utility player with talent.
“We played together at Shu Shine. I was his captain, he was a utility player, at times we used to play together in defence and at times in midfield, he was a very talented player,” said Gumbo.
But Mushekwa’s departure from Highlanders left fans’ hearts sore as many were surprised to see other junior players of his generation but not as talented as him hogging the limelight.