Centenarian Masunda reminisces on football days with former VP Msika

12 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Centenarian Masunda reminisces on football days with former VP Msika Majuta Nevison Masunda

The Sunday News

MAJUTA Nevison Masunda at 100 is probably the oldest known living former Zimbabwe Saints player.
He may even be the oldest living former soccer player in the country.

Masunda said Mashonaland United as Saints was called at its formation was meant to be a team that unites all the Shona-speaking people in Bulawayo.

The team changed to Zimbabwe Saints in 1975 at the instigation of national leaders like Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Herbert Ushewokunze, himself a staunch Saints member till his death.

Some teams were formed on ethnic lines like Mutambara United whose players came from Chief Mutambara area in Manicaland Province, Gaza whose majority of players were Shangaan speaking from Chipinge, and United Africa dominated by those from the old Charter District now Chikomba in Mashonaland East Province, which was by far one of the largest districts in the country.

Masunda born on 25 March 1924, joined the club in 1944, 13 years after its formation.
He said he was born in Chivhu and his people were moved to Buhera by the whites. He then moved to Mvuma for school from their new base at Chawatama area of Buhera where he played with guys from Chirumanzu.

He recalls that they were moved to poorer soils as the whites took over places with fertile soils in the Chivhu and Mvuma areas. At the age of 20, he ventured into the big city of Bulawayo — then the country’s industrial hub and cultural melting point. Masunda started as a right-back and later moved to attack.

He described himself as a striker who had pace, good ball control and shooting power that endeared him to fans.“Yes, there were other clubs represented by boys from specific places like Gaza had people from Chipinge, Africa United from Chirumanzu, and Mutambara United. Mashonaland United had a broad base, it was inclusive,” said Masunda.

He said back in the day on the field of play there was unity and only fans outside the pitch fought on ethnic lines.“I started school in Mvuma and moved here (Chawatama area of Buhera). After, school I went back to Mvuma where I played football before I headed to Bulawayo for extra education where I got the break to play for Mashonaland United.

Some people knew me from Mvuma and wanted me to join their club that had lots of guys from Chirumanzu and others were at Mashonaland United. I chose Mashonaland United,” said Masunda.
He said years later at Mashonaland United he would team up with a man who would later become Zimbabwe’s Vice-President, Joseph Msika, a towering right-back.

“He was tall and imposing. He played as a right-back when I was now a striker. Joseph liked to talk about politics but that did not affect the team’s unity, others followed his political thinking. I was with him in the Rhodesia African National Congress, National Democratic Party, People’s Caretaker Council and Zapu,” said Masunda.

Masunda said he was among the top strikers of his day and eventually got nicknamed “Scorer”.
“Aaah I used to score regularly and they nicknamed me Scorer, because I was bad news,” said Masunda.
Masunda’s exploits did not go unnoticed as he was on numerous occasions called up to the Southern Rhodesia Pick that played against Malawi, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) then known as Zaire.

Among some of the players of his time who earned recognition were Scholar, Jambok, Chester and Gibson Makanda, Matthew “303” Maruma, Jeffrey “Dusty King” Gotora who had one hand and terrorised defenders on the wing at will.

“Gotora was a good dribbler, he was very good, we had Dutchie at Zimbabwe Saints, he was also a good player alongside the Highlanders brothers, Chester and Gibson (Makanda) and one player who was known as Malalapipe,” said Masunda.

He said competition back in those days in Bulawayo was between Matabeleland Highlanders whom he said was composed of people of different ethnic backgrounds, United Africa and Mashonaland United.

“The big three teams in Bulawayo were United Africa, Mashonaland United and Matabeleland Highlanders. There was also Northern Rhodesia with people from Zambia, it was a good team with John Walker (the legendary Cobras and later City Pirates giant goalkeeper),” said Masunda at his Masunda Homestead at Chawakatama area of Buhera where on 4 May his children and the community hosted a party in his honour.

Exactly 80 years after arriving in Bulawayo at the height of the Second World War, Masunda gave snippets about life during that time.It has always been a missing page in the country’s soccer history on how football was affected by that war.

Masunda said life was normal, and football continued being played. There was not much effect on Matabeleland Highlanders and Mashonaland United.

“When I arrived in Bulawayo in 1944 the war was raging. But people continued with their football as if nothing was happening. The set-up back then was people volunteered to be part of the army, but football was so infectious that many would prefer staying behind and playing for Mashonaland United and Matabeleland Highlanders,” said Masunda.

He said men of his age who returned from the war front had swagger. That threw a temptation on Masunda’s path but the war ended before he could join.

“Honestly I wanted to join the war too. We saw those returning from the Second World War putting on nice clothing and they had money and other nice things. For me, it ended early before I could join it. I think it had little effect on the game here at home,” said Masunda.

Perhaps in the aftermath of the war in the white communities, as more came from Europe to settle in Southern Africa, they benefited in the numbers and skills transfer in the game.

He remembers with pride making the grade for the Bulawayo City Select known as Red Army back then.
Red Army would on an annual basis be selected among the top players in the city to take part in the Osborne Trophy which used to be for amateur footballers.

Masunda made many appearances for the Red Army alongside Jambok, Scholar and Marume.
While some top players in the Zimbabwe Premiership retire without flying for a match, Masunda said in the late 1940s and early 1950s black players flew to the capital, Harare then Salisbury for the national finals.

They would play amateur teams from the south-west part of the country like Wankie (Hwange) Mine and Gweru Select and often they won to set a date with the Harare Select, Yellow Peril.
At times it would be Green Bombers from Mutare.

He said for the appearance in the finals they would be flown and paid handsomely.“Those were great times of my football. We would be flown and be paid three pounds for the cup. It was a lot of money back then, with it, we would buy a lot of things,” said Masunda.

He would find romance, married in 1953 and quit playing football.Among the club officials was one Mr Musonza, who was chairman and also among the administrators of Bulawayo African Football Association, now Bulawayo Amateur Football Association (Bafa).

“We used to meet at his house and it is where I later met my wife and married her. When I got married I quit football to concentrate on my work and family, I stayed a political activist and helped a lot when our leaders were in detention or had left for Zambia,” said Masunda whose political activism was inspired by the late Vice-President Msika’s resilience and commitment to an independent Zimbabwe.

After retiring Masunda stayed a club supporter and was happy to see the team change to Zimbabwe Saints embracing unity in the struggle for Independence achieved after the ceasefire agreement of 1979 leading to Independence in 1980.

He is disappointed with what has befallen his Great Chikwata, who have made relegation at whatever league look like their primary goal.

Masunda, however, is proud to have been among the torch-bearers of the great football club — Zimbabwe Saints formerly Mashonaland United.At 100 years old, Masunda believes leading a clean life with good habits has taken him this far.

“Dad loves traditional foods, especially sadza rezviyo and traditional vegetables. He never smoked or drank beer. He is of sober habits. He doesn’t like to be idle and wakes up early every day and does exercises. He is a very smart man who always has his shirt tucked even when working in the fields,” said his eldest surviving son, Robson.

Robson said his father first lived in Makokoba and then moved to Mzilkazi.Later he moved in with his now 88-year-old wife Moud (Musonza).

They were among the first occupants of Mpopoma houses. His last employer at retirement was Industrial Agencies, a company that used to supply mines, the National Railways of Zimbabwe and factories. Masunda was blessed with six boys and two girls.

Now he is left with three sons and a daughter. The family, however, continues to grow as he has 25 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

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