WATCH: Homela recounts hair-raising liberation war incident

07 Apr, 2024 - 00:04 0 Views
WATCH: Homela recounts hair-raising liberation war incident Gibson Homela

The Sunday News

FOOTBALL legend Gibson Homela has spoken of a hair-raising moment during the liberation war, when on their return to Harare they encountered guerillas at Mupfure River Bridge, just after Chegutu.

It was the first and only incident in 1977 that he had ever encountered “abafana/vana mukoma” as both ZPRA and Zanla  forces were fondly referred to.

His Zimbabwe Saints side had played in Bulawayo as he worked at Edgars Headquarters, which was situated in the then Salisbury, the capital, before being moved to Bulawayo after Independence, he had to be at work the next morning, which compelled him to drive back soon after every Bulawayo match for his side.

He would travel back with Tony Machado, Steve Kwashi and Lucky Rufani who were also working in the capital while playing for their beloved Chauya Chikwata, as Saints were affectionately called.

 After a home match, they drove back as usual and after Chegutu as they were driving towards Mupfure River Bridge, Homela on Friday told Sunday Life Sport that they stumbled on an unusual roadblock.

Anxious moments would later arise when they were quizzed about who Machado was.

It was then that Homela realised that the roadblock was not the usual one where Rhodesian Front soldiers and the police would man. 

They had driven themselves right into the hands of the guerillas.

What saved the day was Homela explaining that they were soccer players coming from a match in Bulawayo and that Machado was a player too.

“Only then did they let us pass. But as we drove away we realised that on either side of the road there were men with guns pointing at us,” said Homela.

It was then that it sunk in them the danger they were in. 

There was a chance of the guerillas not buying their story, or the enemy appearing on the scene and a shootout ensuing.

Homela said after that incident they never had any encounters with guerillas. The Mupfure River Bridge roadblock was a surprise, as the spot was not the usual one for roadblocks.

Homela was one of the best players in the local league from the inception of more organised multi-racial football in 1963.

He was among three youngsters identified at the Gweru Amateur Football Association Grounds and at Fletcher High School and brought to Mashonaland United in Bulawayo who would later change to Zimbabwe Saints. The other two were the legendary William Sibanda and Aleck Mwanza.

Homela was a member of the national team that was forced to play on neutral ground in a final World Cup qualifying match against Australia in Maputo. 

The first two were draws and the final one was a disappointing loss courtesy of an own goal by Philemon Tigere.

He was high up there with George Shaya, Peter Nyama, Bobby Chalmers, Granger and Itai Chieza who were the strikers in the team.

Homela started alongside Chalmers and Granger operating on the left wing.

“Coach, Danny Maclennan thought Nyama and Shaya were too soft, he wanted strikers who would aid the defence when possession was lost. He considered those two despite being clinical in front of goal, delicacies,” said Homela.

Homela is happy that although for him Independence came when he was 34, however, there were several stars lucky enough to have been top of their game in 1980, who benefitted immensely from the freedom for the majority.

“Look at players like Stanley Ndunduma, Japhet Mparutsa, Joel Shambo, Shacky Tauro, Eddie Katsvere, Stix Mtizwa, Ephraim Moloi, Misheck (Marimo) Chidzambwa and David Mwanza, they had hit top form. They were among the generation that benefitted from Independence. Their careers blossomed and they played international football for clubs and country at the peak of their career, opportunities some of us were denied,” said Homela.

He had been part of the last national team to play an official international game sanctioned by Fifa, when the country took on Australia in 1969.

A year later the country’s membership of Fifa was suspended and only lifted in 1980 paving the way for Zimbabwe to play host to a four-team tournament that attracted Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

In the final, Zimbabwe beat Zambia 2-1, with Sunday Marimo the senior national team captain.

“It’s a pity, I never took football that seriously and managed to reach heights I could have attained if I had fully committed to the career. I was content with my job at Edgars. Football was just for fun.

“Yes, Independence was a political victory for us, but for me as an individual it meant I would just continue doing what I used to do, playing for fun at 34,” said Homela who played as a striker before Independence for the national team, operating on the left channel.

Homela said despite his advanced age, he still found room in national coach John Rugg’s squad, chosen on merit, as he was outstanding in defence at Saints.

He was capped a number of times playing as a right-back well into his 35th birthday, as he continued to save his Zimbabwe Saints immaculately.

Homela was forced into retirement at 36 in 1982 following a road accident they were involved in as Saints while coming from a cup game against Shabanie Mine.

He was among the first members of the Zimbabwe Football Association national executive and later became technical director and national team coach.

Players like Topsy Robertson, William Sibanda, Tendai Chieza could have made the grade anywhere in the world if the country was free, opines Homela.

“I am sure I could have alongside Topsy Robertson, Nelson Mapara, William Sibanda and Tendai Chieza made the grade in professional leagues. There were so many of us back then who were talented and deserved better leagues,” said Homela.


Homela was bad news as a striker. 

At some point, Saints flew him from the United Kingdom where he was studying to play in the 1976 Chibuku Trophy final, a derby against Highlanders played at Rufaro Stadium. 

He did not disappoint as he had a devastating effect on the game, scoring twice with the other brace coming from Max “Shaluza” Tshuma as they dismantled Highlanders 4-0.

At Zimbabwe Saints, Homela played alongside Rufani, Kwashi, Sibanda, Musa Muzanenhamo, Zebron Magorimbo, Isaac Banda, Philemon Dangarembwa, Itai Chieza, Eddie Frano, Emmanuel Sibanda, Douglas Maneto,  Shaky Nyathi, Tapiwa Mudyambanje, Andrew “Mai Maria” Kadengu, Stephen Tshuma among others.

In the 1969 World Cup team he had the likes of Isaac Chieza, Sheppard Murape, Jordan Banks, Chalmers, Granger, Itai Chieza, Nyama, Shaya, Shadreck Ngwenya, James Nxumalo and in independent Zimbabwe got to line up alongside Frank Mkanga, Sunday Chidzambwa, Tymon Mabaleka, Charles Sibanda, Ephert Lungu, Wonder Phiri, Byron Manuel, George Rollo, David Muchineripi and Raphael Phiri.

His place among legends of the game and his contribution after 1980 to the development of the game, deserves him a place in the Zimbabwe Hall of Fame.

Because of his sober habits, he was able to play for the national team from the 60s right through to 1981.

In 1987 at 41, Homela played for the national team after Zifa sent 10 players and two goalkeepers to the East and Central Africa Football Federation tournament.

When one of the in-field players got injured with Brenna Msisika, the only substitute, players insisted that instead Homela should come in as a substitute.

A history maker, he may share the gong for the oldest Warriors player at 40 plus with Bruce Grobbelaar.


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