The Sunday News
ROBSON “Sarafina” Muchichwa rates among the most successful Zimbabwean soccer players in South Africa with a number of club and individuals on his neck.
Born in Bulawayo’s Pelandaba Township on 2 November 1975, he scaled heights that many of the present day Bulawayo boys can only dream of.
A former South African Footballer of the Year, Players Player of the Year, Coca-Cola Cup and Rothmans Shield winner, he is no doubt up there in the league of Alexander Maseko, Cleopas Dlodlo, Ebson Sugar Muguyo, Ephraim Chawanda, Henry Mckop and Esrom Nyandoro whose careers across the Limpopo were serenaded with silverware.
Muchichwa speaks of his days in the township and playing plastic balls in the streets between family chores as he was born in an Apostolic family. He goes on to mention how influential Gabriel Mlilo his teacher at Induba Primary School was in his career. Mlilo is credited with mentoring many boys that starred for Bulawayo Wanderers and Eagles when he relocated from Hwange in 1975.
“That man was my school teacher and football teacher, he laid the foundation for the footballer that I got to be. He had a great influence in my career,” said Zimara as many Bulawayo Wanderers/Eagles fans called him.
With White City Stadium, the home of Eagles a few streets away, it was perhaps only logical for any budding star to try his luck there.
There was so much inspiration in that earlier generations had Majuta Mpofu, Mapleni Nyathi, Bekithemba Ngwenya and Dr Melusi Sibanda among the stars. In between Muchichwa and the Majuta generation were Rahman Gumbo, Boy Ndlovu, Tanny Banda, Felix Ntuthu, Stanford Ntini and Francis Paketh — a talented generation that could have walked into any team anywhere in Southern Africa and be rated stars and later on legends.
Muchichwa says dribbling menace Boy Ndlovu was his star player and great motivator to influence him to take up the game and go all the way to the top. Ndlovu is rated among the best dribblers and footballers not only to emerge from Eagles, Bulawayo but the whole of Zimbabwe. International isolation of South Africa due to apartheid denied him a chance to showcase his skills on a higher podium than the Zimbabwe Super League and Premiership.
“I was also influenced by Boy Maxmillion Ndlovu,” echoed Muchichwa in an interview from Pretoria where he now lives.
Mlilo on the other end talks of the risk he took on the player.
“His brothers were not happy with him taking long hours in the game. After school they expected him to join the family and sell wares to supplement the family foodbasket as they belonged to an Apostolic Sect.
“They were angry with me so much that they wanted to beat me up for keeping him long in football,” said Mlilo a retired educationist, athletics and football trainer of repute whose legendary status is encrypted among those he worked with at Induba and Eagles.
Muchichwa says he was invited to the Eagles juniors by one coach who was known as Msharukwa. Muchichwa’s medal laden journey saw him win the Chibuku Trophy Under-14 national title with Eagles in a team that had many youngsters who even proceeded to play outside the country.
“I started playing for Eagles FC with the likes of Viavian Nkomo and Cleopas Dlodlo and later I joined Black Aces whom I found with players like Percy Mwase, Stanley Mashezha, the Mugeyi brothers William and Wilfred, John Mbidzo and goalkeeper Emmanuel Nyahuma in 1992,” said the star who barely stayed two years in the capital as the Rand pull factor knocked on his toes and he responded to take his career to a higher level.
He was capped at Under-20 and 23 levels for his country as his career continued on a positive trajectory whose apex was individual honours and many cup triumphs in South Africa. For his secondary school education he proceeded to nearby Sizane Secondary School like many of his Eagles mates. Muchichwa made his Premier debut against Highlanders and concedes it was not one of his best matches.
“I would rate the afternoon’s performance as having been at about 40 percent, I was up against Mercedes Sibanda, they called him Rambo,” said Muchichwa.
The former Highlanders, Blackpool, FC Randers and Zimbabwe rightback is considered one of the best wingbacks ever in Zimbabwe. Muchichwa, whose greatest asset as a player was probably strength when going forward and comfort on the ball, considers former Orlando Pirates star Joseph Ngake as his most difficult opponent. Muchichwa was lured to Black Aces by former Under-20 national team coach Peter Nyama.
The club won the last Super League title in 1992 and there was a rush for its players by newly independent South Africa.
Wilfred and William were ensnared by Bushbucks alongside John Mbizo while Qwaqwa Fairway Stars, renowned gaffer Steve Kopela’s side who were then under Nyama took Muchichwa for the 1993/94 season.
It was first time luck for Muchichwa as his new side won the Coca-Cola Cup with him among the stars of the set.
Many great performances followed and that earned him a dream move to South Africa’s most supported club Kaizer Chiefs.
He played with the likes of Thabo Mooki, Thabang Lebese, Brian Baloyi, Doctor Khumalo, Pollen Ndlanya, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Marc Batchelor. The highlight of his stay there were rave reviews by the South African media with awards from Kickoff and landing the Player of the Season and Players Player of the Season.
He recalls the two back-to-back cup conquests of 1996 and 1997 seasons in the Rothmans Shield as his stoke gained more attrition on the field. He would stay up to 1999 season at Chiefs before stints with Ria Stars, Piersburg Pillars and Benoni United before his retirement in 2005 to give way to younger players.
For most of his time after retirement, the legend, who was capped in the senior national team in 2000, has been coaching in the lower division leagues in Durban and Gauteng.
“I retired in the year 2005, for me I think it was time to do so,” said Muchichwa, who says a loss to Orlando Pirates on penalties in the BP League Cup remains a sore point to him.
It is not a surprise because of the rivalry between the two teams. He pays tribute to his late brother David for having had a great influence on him as a child. The Safa D Licence holder says Zinedine Zidane remains his best player ever. He supported Liverpool growing up in Bulawayo and dreams of coaching a big club in the future.
“If that does not occur, I will retire from football completely,” said Muchichwa.
Like most of the living former Bulawayo/Wanderers stars, Muchichwa is in the team’s WhatsApp Group where they reminisce over the great times they had.
The team made its mark in Zimbabwe football with their freestyle football brand that many compared to Brazil and Kaizer Chiefs. Stars were allowed to express themselves on the field like artists.
Muchichwa is father to former Highlanders and Bulawayo City leftback Humphrey Ncube.