Masvingo star who got Young Warriors call by mistake

04 Dec, 2022 - 00:12 0 Views
Masvingo star who got Young Warriors call by mistake Thomas Sandram

The Sunday News

SOME are born to play for their national teams, some buy their way through unscrupulous agents, but for pioneering Zimbabwe Under-20 defender Thomas Sandram it was an accident.

In March 1980, just appointed national Under-20 coach Mick Poole went around the country scouting for talent. It was a transparent exercise, a script present generations can borrow and make Zimbabwe football an equal opportunities arena.

Sandram admits that his selection was an “error” though he made the most of it. A player who had been identified on the first day of trials skipped training the following day. A swap in jerseys left Poole convinced that Sandram was his dream defender and made him play in defence.

That mistake earned Sandram a chance to play for the national Under-20 team with some of the best players ever produced in this country.

“During schooldays I would play for a Division One team called United Aces in Masvingo. It was in 1980 while playing for Aces that I was spotted by then coach Mick Poole when he came to Masvingo on his tour of different towns recruiting players for the national Under-20 team. I was playing as a striker at club level, Mick converted me to a defender due to mistaken identity.

“Some guy who was a defender and myself swapped shirts at training on the first day. On the second day the defender did not turn up and I was wearing that shirt and that led Mick to mistake me for the guy. He asked me to play in defence and I complied and played to his satisfaction and that is how I earned a national Under-20 call-up,” said the Gweru-born star.

Sandram argues that the first-ever Under-20 squad has been Zimbabwe’s very best. It had Lucky Dube, Japhet Mparutsa, John Phiri, David Mwanza, Madinda Ndlovu, Sebastian Chikwature, Zacharia Chironda, Stanley Ndunduma, Ephraim Dzimbiri, James Takavada, David Zulu, Shaky Nyathi, Takesure Maverengo, Charlie Charles and others like Machona Sibanda, Samson Phiri and Weekly Mwale became part of the squad later and won the 1981 Zone Six Championships in Maputo.

At Aces Sandram was moved to midfield while coaches stuck to him in defence in the Under-20 team which earned the moniker Young Warriors in 1981 after watching a movie as a group.

When winning in Maputo, the team was under the care of Peter Nyama and Ashton Nyazika, both late.

After some inspiring performances for his lower division side, legendary football coach and administrator, an English Football Association coaching badge holder, Morrison Sifelani signed him up for Hippo Valley Estates.

“At Hippo Valley I played alongside guys like Weekly Mwale, James Bvumbi, Blanca Duncan, Regis Domingo and some other talented guys,” said Sandram. When Hippo Valley were relegated from the Super League at the end of 1981, Sandram found himself among the founding players of Masvingo United. The community brought together players from PG FC and United Aces.

“I only played for Masvingo United for one season which was 1982,” said Sandram.

A deliberate move by Bata Power to be a football powerhouse in Zimbabwe saw the club recruit many players who were part of the Young Warriors. Their coach was Lovemore Nyabeze.

“Bata Power coach Lovemore Nyabeze went out of his way to recruit players who had been part of the Young Warriors under Poole as they showed a great future in the game,” said Sandram.

The Young Warriors netted were Rainos Mapfumo, Samson Phiri, Machona Sibanda, Chikwature and Mike Musa.

Onias Musana, whose combination with Lemman Mnenekwa for the 1979 Chibuku Trophy semi-finalists Black Horrors of Plumtree, and later a stint at Moroka Swallows and Zimbabwe Saints was among the senior players Sandram found at his home town side.

Prior to that, Gweru United and Go Beer Rovers had been the city’s flag-bearers in the bigger leagues.

Joining the team too were Jimmy Mbewe who had a distinguished career with Black Rhinos, Wonder Soko, Lazarus Pararayi and Morgan Chirango.

A broken tibia and fibula in 1983 ended Sandram’s career when he was approaching the peak of his career.

Among the treasured memories Sandram has in football is sharing a room with the legendary George Shaya while with the Under-20 team that was coached by Poole. Shaya was Poole’s assistant.

“Sharing a room with the iconic George Shaya at Queens Hotel when he was assistant to Mick Poole’s assistant was big. Shaya advised me about the importance of being humble, down to earth and committed to the game,” said Sandram and from the interview one could read the humility of a great star denied an opportunity to progress to legendary status by an injury.

Sandram regards Takesure Maverengo as the funniest of the 1981-1982 Under-20 squad.

“He was very hilarious, always led in singing songs to psyche us up as we went to training and matches. He would lead us in singing Nehanda Dzika Mudzimu, you know it was soon after Independence attainment in 1980,” said Sandram.

Another highlight was his debut against Zambia in 1980 when he came as a substitute at Harare in a 4-3 win over Zambia.

Sandram says his other game was the 2-1 defeat in Cairo to Egypt, a match he believes they gave their all but a positive result could not yield.

He is disappointed that his teammates who had so much as youngsters; Rainos Mapfumo and dreadlocked dribbling wizard Samson Phiri, did not reach zenith heights like some teammates Madinda, Boy, Mparutsa and Dube.

Sandram, who is also a short-term insurance agent in Gweru who was born on 30 September 1962, describes Titus Majola as his toughest opponent.

“My most difficult opponent was Titus Majola, I trained extra hard because the guy kept you running for 90 minutes,” said Sandram who regularly meets with other Gweru former football stars.

In defence in the Young Warriors Sandram partnered Chikwature or John Phiri.

Sandram is a father of five and still follows football, especially foreign leagues which he watches religiously on television.

He attended Don Bosco Primary School in Masvingo where he started playing football for the first team in Grade Five and proceeded to Zimuto High School.

While getting to the national team was an accident, he proved his worth and stayed in the ranks until he was over the limit.

Sandram is among many pioneering Warriors who are now living in relative obscurity from the game because subsequent Zifa administrators never valued the value of their predecessors and legends.

Share This: