The Sunday News
Yesteryear greats with Lovemore Dube
KWANELE Tshuma rates among the biggest football stars to emerge from Mpopoma suburb in Bulawayo.
To his community he is a legend. He has been among the best footballers they have born, nurtured and seen glow on the national scale and international level.
But on the broader Zimbabwe soccer landscape he is not that known despite several times being capped for the Zimbabwe Military Services national teams. This side has over the years consisted of the cream drawn from the Air Force of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe National Army which plays in international tournaments regularly. A number of factors came Tshuma’s way.
Scenario One: As an emerging youth there was the Madinda Ndlovu, Mercedes Sibanda, Ephraim Chawanda, Joseph Machingura, Boy Ndlovu, Rahman Gumbo, Willard Khumalo generation topping the charts. Between him and these were a good five years or so in terms of age difference.
Born in 1970, he had another hurdle ahead of him, the emerging Peter Ndlovu, Agent Sawu, the late Adam Ndlovu, Innocent Rwodzi and Oscar Ncube of his age group stealing the thunder. Thirdly he did not play for Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints juniors, instead his route was boarding school and a host of lower division sides. When eventually sense knocks on football and sport communities, the powers will have to consider that legends can be localised, city wise and national.
“My regret is that joining a military team limited my exposure compared to what would have been had I played for big teams like Dynamos and Highlanders,” said Tshuma from his Kempton Park, Johannesburg home on Friday morning.
He was a brilliant midfielder who rubbed shoulders with the best players in the land in the early 1990s up to 2006 when he called it quits. Tshuma better known to his friends and footballers as Rai, was born on May 15, 1970 to a family of five boys and four girls in Bulawayo. He is the only one in the family who shone in sport.
He started playing football at primary school level at Mpopoma’s Nkulumane Primary School. His taste of competitive schools football saw him start as a goalkeeper before asking to play infield in the second-half and would rise through the developmental structures from Division Four to Division One at primary school with Gampu his school’s nemesis.
“The team was very strong and we were coached by the headmaster Jonathan Mnyama and I moved to Mpopoma Chiefs which was coached by Amos Banda. I also played for Black Hawks, Combat Commandos, KC from Njube, YCC under Themba Tshuks, Merlin Husky, Dairibord all these being in the junior league,” he said.
Tshuma spent two years at Mpopoma High School where he played with Black Mambas legend John Ncube with Ronny Jowa, Peter Nyamande and Lloyd Munhanga, seniors at the school. A move to Mzinyathini meant he would only play football during holidays but that did not douse the fire in the budding footie.
He was captain of the school and the Matabeleland South Under-18 team for the inter-provincial championships sponsored by Coca-Cola. Tshuma remembers his childhood good footballer friends who pushed him hard to be a better player — Charlie Mkaradi, Wonder Sibanda, Nathan Nyoni, Nyika Marufu, John Cezu.
“Ibhora lamaphepha had a huge impact in my football journey. I used to carry one to school and play at break time. I trained a lot at night at home ngebhora lamaphepha. I mastered all my football skills from that ball,” said Tshuma of a dying fade in our lives.
Tshuma had been invited to Hunyani, a Division Two side where he played alongside former Bosso, Eagles and Kaizer Chiefs defender Cleopas Dlodlo, the dribbling wizard brothers Clement and Mandla Balanda, Ralph Granger, Themba Wami, Zenzo Ndlovu and all dead balls taker Peter Colley.
“We never trained at Hunyani, we met on matchdays and were given $2 for a win before a friend John convinced me to join National Blankets who were coached by Majuta Mpofu’s brother before I left for boarding school,” said Tshuma.
Before his O-level results were out Tshuma was invited to Turnall FC who were in Division Two by Last Khumalo where he teamed up with Mangwiro, Never Tablahla and a host of other young players to form a formidable side.
His ascent to elite football came about after former President Canaan Banana saw him turn out for Turnall and recommended him to Blue Swallows an Air Force of Zimbabwe side. Tshuma was not in the game as a player at White City as he was nursing an injury, but convinced the Statesman that he could be what he was looking for.
President Banana wanted a striker and a defender.
“I told him I could foot the bill despite being a linkman and I got an invitation for a trial where after the first-half I was elevated to train with the first team having impressed the coaches,” said Tshuma.
He played in the Premier league with Jonah Murehwa, Choddy Chirwa, Beavan Gwamure, Anderson Matenga, Perkins Nyamutamba, Lameck Nyangela, Taurai Murehwa, Jonah Chigwinya the speedster, Emmanuel Soche, Reason Sibanda and Alex Chasweka at Blue Swallows.
With Rhinos chasing his signature being the biggest of the uniformed services, Tshuma was deliberately moved to rivals Chapungu in Gweru who are the flagship football team in the Airforce of Zimbabwe. His ratings rose as he rubbed shoulders with Kennedy Chihuri, Nohlanhla Moyo, the Muteji twins Abel and Cain, Elliot Mkhonto, Thomas Banda, Solani Tshuma, Mbulelo Dube, Maxwell Dube, Nkulumo Donga, Godfrey Chuchu and Innocent Chogugudza.
He praised Donga for leadership.
He said when chips were down Donga would call the players and instruct them to play to the best of their talents and ignore the tactical approach that would not be bearing result from the bench and at times things changed for better.
Married to childhood sweetheart Mandisa and with three sons, Tshuma who works as a store man at an aircraft company in Kempton Park, says his most memorable goal was against Caps United. They led as Swallows but eventually lost 2-1 and another great performance against Blackpool where he capped a fine afternoon’s performance with a goal.
Tshuma says his toughest opponent was Joe Mugabe.
“Joe Mugabe because of his mobility and ability to position himself well in the 18-yard box,” quipped Tshuma.
He was in the early 1990s part of a national Under-23 team that was supposed to tour Europe under Gibson Homela but the trip fell through.
At one stage he was part of the Matabeleland North Select Under-18 squad coached by legendary Majuta Mpofu.
He speaks fondly of the many times he represented Zimbabwe in the military national team and winning games with the likes of Ashley Mahlangu, Steven Jonhera and Nkosithabile Nkala. He retired from the game in 2006 and coached juniors as well as managing Blue Swallows before going to South Africa. He said he was inspired by Mpopoma legends Douglas Mloyi, Joseph Machingura and Misheck Sibanda to take the game.