The Sunday News
Yesteryear greats with Lovemore Dube
FORMER Black Rhinos attacking midfielder, Cassius Siziba says African players fail to play beyond 35 years because of the poor pitches they grow up playing on.
“You know in Africa they are very few players who play up to 40 years because of the pitches used at a tender age. We always have problems with our knees,” said Siziba.
Ligaments on ankles also get affected by the hard surfaces as boys find themselves playing on the tarmac and concrete. Born in 1971, Siziba attended primary school in Gwanda, Plumtree and Matshayisikhova in Bulawayo.
He started playing football in the streets of Luveve, a suburb which back then had Amin Soma Phiri and Alexander Maseko as flag bearers as they were key members of the cup tournaments winning Highlanders of the mid-1980s.
His family never wanted him to play football as they felt it was disturbing his concentration at Luveve Secondary School. At Luveve, soccer was down the packing order, playing second fiddle to basketball and volleyball.
With these two sports played almost throughout the year and travels regularly, the lanky Siziba found himself playing basketball. It took an instruction from the Luveve Secondary School headmaster for Siziba to change allegiances.
“At school I was forced by the headmaster after some pupils reported that I was a good soccer player. I did not want because the majority of the guys playing football were smoking mbanje,” said Siziba.
Siziba was good in basketball at a time when schools basketball had players like Archieford Murombedzi, Flaviasi Zharare, Dingi Mguni, Jeff Tigere, Tony and Herbert Benson and Basil West.
“I had opted for basketball which I played and represented the province. So I went and played after the intervention of the headmaster,” said Siziba.
After leaving Luveve, Siziba found himself at Zesa Hwange, a club teeming with youthful talent from the coal mining town’s schools’ development programmes and stars like Richard Gumbo who had played for the team from the Wankie Amateur Football Association Division Two.
He played with the likes of Fungai Mahupete, Noah Nyoni, Thomas Banda, Nathan Banda, Chabuka Mwale and Richard Mwamba. He played just for a season and returned to Bulawayo to try his luck at Zimbabwe Saints. He would not stay long at the club as there were ownership wrangles with two distinct factions.
“I was at Zimbabwe Saints FC not Zimbabwe Saints Pvt Ltd because there was confusion so I joined Shu-Shine,” said Siziba.
He recalls playing with the likes of Matambanashe Sibanda, Sikhumbuzo Banda, Dumisani Dube, Innocent Rwodzi and Ronald Sibanda. At Shu-Shine, he played with Tavaka Gumbo, Likhile Sithole, Isaac Riyano, Norman Moyo, Martin Ncube and Timile Ncube.
As former Saints coach Henry Mushonga aimed at hunting with trusted boys from home as he sought to solidify his place at the club, he called Siziba to join Royal Tigers in Durban, South Africa in 1994.
“I found former Highlanders junior Nkosana Ndlovu and Shu-Shine legend Vivian Mushekwa.”
Siziba scored for Tigers in his debut fixture against William and Wilfred Mugeyi’s Umtata Bushbucks as they won 1-0 and another in the 2-1 loss to Pretoria City. He regards meeting the Mugeyi brothers as one of his most memorable days in football in the match he was on target.
He also played against renowned South African gaffer Gavin Hunt who was with Hellenics. He was injured in a match against Moroka Swallows and a dispute over his salary ensued leading him to return home.
“The salary they were offering me was almost equivalent to what I was getting at Shu-Shine, so I saw no need to stay there. We did not agree on the money issues after playing four games there I came back and in 1995 I joined Black Rhinos,” said Siziba.
He played alongside Itai Masawi, Jack Mutandagari and Gift Kamuriwo under Roy Barreto. He speaks highly of his partnership with speedster Darlington Phiri at Rhinos and the instrumental role Mutandagari played in attack coming from the right back position.
When he joined Rhinos they were in Division One and he hit the ground running top scoring in their Division One campaign with 17 goals having joined them after a couple of matches into the season.
“I was second on the top goal scorers table with 17, it was a dream season for me as we were promoted back into the Premiership,” said the 51-year old.
From Shu-Shine he had switched to centre forward and at Rhinos he replaced legendary Maronga Nyangela and was given his jersey to wear.
Gifted with skill and pace, the former Luveve High School pupil who played against the likes of Peter Ndlovu, Benjamin Nkonjera and Thabani Moyo in schools football was many a defender’s nightmare down the flank.
Siziba was transferred to Buffaloes in Mutare.
“In 1998 I moved to Buffaloes where I eventually trained as a soldier and I was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army,” said Siziba.
In the twilight of his career Siziba joined Njube Sundown’s as he wanted to be home with his family after close to a decade on the road.
At Sundown’s he was assistant coach and also in charge of the Under-19s. The New Luveve lad was a cut above the rest in the neighbourhood whenever he could sneak out to play with the boys. He could not play junior football because his family did not want to hear about football.
“The family was against me playing football that was the reason they enrolled me at boarding school while home was Luveve. This was after I had started going to train with Highlanders juniors at Barbourfields Stadium. I was being sponsored by one teacher who had seen me playing and felt I was cut to play for Bosso,” said Siziba.
Self-motivation always drove Siziba as he had passion in the sport. Siziba retired in his early 30s because of injuries which he blamed on bad facilities while growing up.
Siziba had two operations on his knees and he felt after the second he could not handle it any more. He counts himself lucky after being coached by legendary figures like Tendai Chieza and Philemon Dangarembwa at Shu-Shine, Barreto and Stix Mtizwa at Rhinos.
He says his most difficulty opponent was Dynamos’ Chamu Musanhu. The father of four quit the army in 2005.