Makokoba: What went wrong in the home of football?

03 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Makokoba: What went  wrong in the home of football? Zenzo Moyo

The Sunday News

BALL at my feet, I stride across the stony earth, towering above my opponents like a sporting colossus. 

Then, approximately two seconds later, I’m dispossessed by a barefooted 13-year-old boy who skips past three other players before back-heeling the ball into the net. I’m a colossus no more; I’m a lumbering retired giant who has just been schooled in the art of kasi football — just the way I remember it from my own playing days on the same fields!

So why am I here today? Well, for one, Makokoba has changed. It is still a hood where a Peter Ndlovu or Matambanashe Sibanda or Zenzo Moyo can be unearthed at the drop of a coin! After all, Makokoba did give football Makheyi Nyathi, Lenny Gwata, Gift Lunga (Senior), Nkululeko “Chunky” Dlodlo, Tanny Banda, Sam Sibanda, Simon Sibanda, Dan Ngwenya, Thabanie Moyo, Chipo Tsodzo, Adam Ndlovu, Simba “Sporo” Nyakuzviwanza and Benjamin Nkonjera.

Some of these guys benefited from international youth tournaments like the Aberdeen Youth Football Festival in Scotland — players like Makheyi, Chunky while Senior made the grade in Germany.

Tanny Banda

The game has failed to produce any more players of note from Makokoba: why? For the first time, there is not a single player from Makokoba who is making waves in the Castle Lager Premiership.

When we were young, to get to this pitch, a group of us would navigate between the impossibly ramshackle houses and businesses without encountering anything but friendliness and warmth from the locals — something that seems to be a Bulawayo trait as common as the obsessive love of football.

The main reason, however, is that obsession. Football needs to come back home in a big way! Today, footballers of tomorrow are either high on drugs or drunk from alcohol and we must all play our part and put an end to this. My late brothers-in-football are most likely turning in their graves right now given the amount of drug and substance abuse that has taken root in Makokoba.

Yesteryear, it would have been impossible to imagine either Highlanders or Zimbabwe Saints playing a match at Barbourfields Stadium without fielding a player from Makokoba or Mzilikazi. But today this is exactly what’s happening — and all because youngsters are spending too much time engaged in delinquent activities. 

The home of this very beautiful game we love so much is just a bare patch of open space with two goal posts on either side and barely visible markings — whether its 11th street which was home to me, Matamba, Tanny, Teenage and Toto among many more very talented young footballers dreaming of breaking the cycle of poverty through football or Thabiso Youth Centre which gave us the Ndlovu brothers — Adam and Peter. 

I wish we could share with the rest of the country the ingredients that make a Makokoba footballer special. And we can do this by digging around the grassroots, and the first is to take note of the sheer amount of football kids in Makokoba used to play — whether on the pitches or on the dusty streets. Within a one-kilometre radius, there were as many as 10 football pitches. But now Burumbo no longer has a football pitch and the old Saints Juniors’ training ground in Nguboyenja along Luveve Road is also no more!

Nkululeko “Chunky” Dlodlo

The kids should always play football! When you walk into Makokoba you must always find that wherever there is a little space they’ll put two bricks or rocks one side of the other and they’ll start playing. The space here is sometimes small as well, so they have to think fast, especially when dribbling.

And it’s about playing beautifully. It’s about sacrifice, hard work — raw talent is not enough to make it to the big stage! Hard work took a young Peter to the English Premier League! Sacrifice saw me disengage from childhood friends who had chosen a life of crime and make new ones on football pitches across Makokoba and Mzilikazi.

Makokoba was and has always been a school of hard knocks, life’s university, but what has been forever critical is how each and every youngster chooses to live their life. Peter grew up there, struggling like all of us but was still able to make the most of it. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it and work hard towards achieving your set goals.

I lost a lot of friends when I decided that a life of crime was not for me. But I also made even more friends through football than I would ever have made had I chosen to take the route many of my peers at the time had embarked on.

Marvelous Nakamba

As Makokoba, we need to revisit the formula, we need to nip this drug and substance abuse scourge before it engulfs our community and deprives us of the next Peter. We cannot ignore the efforts of the local Member of Parliament and the province’s Resident Minister who are working hard to help us get rid of this scourge. But they cannot do it alone — they need our help! Everyone who is selling drugs to our children must stop. Whole generations are being destroyed by drugs and substance abuse. 

Selling drugs

We must work together to resuscitate our own home of football, to give this and other generations role models they can aspire to emulate just like we aspired to emulate Adam et al. If only we could find five more Coach Ali Babas!

And you can see that with my opponents when I try to play against them on the old dusty pitches that made me and many other professional footballers. And some who didn’t go on to play at pro level too.

Before I pen off, Kudos to young Marvelous Nakamba and his organising team for a tournament well done. Although there are still a few minor issues that may need to be addressed, this was after all the very first such tournament and they can only get better. Well done young man, we are all proud of you and your achievements.

To my daughter Gugulethu Moyo, stay strong Princess, God is in control.

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