The Sunday News
FORMER Zimbabwe Saints striker Lexington Mujokoro is a disappointed footballer.
The standards of the game, he believes have gone down in an era where coach education is compulsory.
“Our players cannot string five passes. Your midfielders and strikers cannot negotiate their way past defenders. Fans are not getting their value for money on entertaining football.
“That creativity that drew us to stadia is no more. The game needs revival,” said Mujokoro in an interview from Musina in South Africa on Friday afternoon.
The burly former footie, a natural old number 9, whose presence on the field was meant to intimidate defenders, says youngsters are not playing enough informal football.
“We played at township clubs and streets for fun. We kicked plastic balls well into our mid-teens and we were then identified by coaches put into organised training regimes where technique and tactics were emphasised.
“We were able to listen, want to develop and emulate our childhood heroes. They were big names on the field, print media and electronic where we were glued to television sets and screens with our families when it was time for the game. Those big names we tried their tricks against our peers and were able to improve.
“Then the game was not monetised, we were probably among the last group of players to play for passion as the late 1990s gave birth to really paid ranks in the game,” said the former AmaZulu, Border Strikers, Kango and Saints forward.
Mujokoro was thrust into the Zimbabwe Saints first team profiteering from bickering at the club that had many youngsters promoted to the first team.
The club broke into two camps in 1992 with one calling itself Zimbabwe Saints Private Limited while the other one stayed Zimbabwe Saints FC.
Initially Mujokoro was groomed by the club which he joined after his Grade 7 at a school in New Lobengula where he had rubbed shoulders with Bhekinkosi “Skwandra” Ndlovu and Lovemore Ncube both of whom were to be big names in the Premiership.
“I was a goalkeeper at primary school. But at secondary school I did not play football at Njube High School but when I moved to Saints, I was thrust into a striking role. I scored plenty of goals and then I moved to ZRP Bulawayo.
“The junior coaches drove to Ross Camp and took me to the Saints Reserves where I joined other younsgters in 1992. I made my debut against Tanganda in a team coached by Henry Mushonga, Philemon Dangarembwa and Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo.
“We still had the likes of King Jones, Nqobizitha Maenzanise, Misheck Sibanda, George Ayibu and the late John Sibanda. I played as a midfielder in my debut match and in the second at Luveve I played as a striker and scored,” he said.
When he talks about John Sibanda, Misheck Sibanda, Kenneth Mathe, Melusi Nkiwane, Henry Ndlovu, Innocent Rwodzi, Misheck Msengezi, Obey Sova, George Ayibu, Godwin Mangayi, Lawrence Chavungama, Ben Nzelengwe, Nqobizitha Maenzanise his voice pitches up.
“These guys are my 1992 team, they treated me well and gave me confidence that it was all possible in the league,” said Mujokoro.
In 1994 Darryn T’s Wieslaw Grawboski wanted him but Saints could not release him.
“During those days a contract was a lifetime commitment to the club. You could not be released. Caps United wanted me too but the club could not release me and that killed my dream. I have no doubt if I had moved to those two teams my career would have blossomed,” said the Beitbridge football legend.
He soon found himself released to Railstars in 1996 helping them to the Premiership with 36 goals.
“That was a great team with the likes of Wisdom Sibanda, Thamsanqa Thambo, Kelvin Maseko and Master Masiku. I scored 36 goals in one of my best seasons and three years later AmaZulu came on board and bought me.
“My stay at AmaZulu was affected by the arrival of Roy Barreto who wanted boys with Premiership and national team experience like Patrick Daka and Kingstone Rinemota. I found myself on my way to Border Strikers in Beitbridge where I would say I enjoyed my football.
“My career blossomed, I had a job to fend for myself and family. Life has been good and the highlights for me were two seasons when we finished runners-up and were involved in Premiership play-offs,” said Mujokoro whose other brothers Ranga and Farai also played professional and semi-professional football.
Three other brothers Danisa, Godfrey and Sebastian were big names on the army sporting scene.
Mujokoro had lots of praises for former national team striker Friday Phiri his coach at Border.
“I think he understood my strengths and that of the rest of the team. He did a great job for Beitbridge making us a formidable side that was feared in the Zifa Southern Region Division One Soccer League. We got recognition all over the region as a formidable side that could decide who gets promoted into the Premiership.
“I was among the regional top goal scorers for a number of years and could not leave for bigger teams because of job security in Beitbridge,” he added.
It is football heroes like Mujokoro, undoubtedly one of the biggest names ever to play football in Beitbridge, who raise the question of who are legends.
He is a legend in his own right. Talk to any kid over 15 in the border town about football. Names like Thomas Banda, Given Masuka, Have-a-look Dube and Mujokoro’s will be mentioned. They were great players in Beitbridge and nearly took the club to great heights if not for lack of resources.
In honouring heroes people should not look at former national team players.
There are South Zone era heroes, Bafa heroes, pre-Independence era stars and of course and regional league stars too not to mention those that set stadia alight for mines like Mwape James Sakala.
Mujokoro intends attaining coaching badges to develop talent as a way of giving back to his community.