WATCH: Prospect of Uhuru, international soccer lured Mabeza back home

31 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
WATCH: Prospect of Uhuru, international soccer lured Mabeza back home Colsen Mabeza

Yesteryear greats with Lovemore Dube

THE prospect of international football brought about by Zimbabwe’s Independence saw Colsen Mabeza dump Wenela and return home.

Mabeza had joined the great trek to work in the mines soon after completing his O-levels at Berejena Secondary School in Chivi District, Masvingo Province in 1975.

As a teenager, Rhodesia did not offer much for a black secondary school graduate like him and the prospect of joining his uncle who worked at the South African mines conquered all his aspirations.

But life would change on 22 December 1979 when he heard that the war back home was ending and the liberation fighters were coming back.

At 22, he had a burning desire to play abroad as a professional. While in South Africa he had learnt about how much Zimbabweans were losing from international football isolation.

The country was suspended in 1970 because of Rhodesia’s policies that deprived the black majority their liberties.

“When I heard about the ceasefire I decided to come back home and I flew to Harare on New Year’s Eve in 1979,” said Mabeza.

A relative spoke to the Dynamos executive and Mabeza got to train with the biggest and most supported club in the country then.

He had in South Africa played in the Mines League where he was among the best players, being the only foreigner making the grade. Some likened him to Kaizer Chiefs’ hero and compatriot Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo who was by then a big hit in South African football because of his goalscoring exploits.

He had many people pushing him to go for a trial with Kaizer Chiefs because he scored for fun in the league where some players had been identified to play for the big league clubs.

“Many felt I was good enough to play for teams like Kaizer Chiefs and pushed for that. But with the prospect of Independence and a chance for international football now available my wish was to come back home, start all over and go abroad through normal channels provided by the gains of being independent.

“Now that I came back but did not achieve my goal, I have a challenge through my Achazia Sports Academy to create a player who will manage to go and play abroad. A well-groomed player who will grasp all football fundamentals at an early age, learn life skills and know what to do with investments from the first contract, do things differently,” said Mabeza.

Mabeza said sadly a number of great players were in the twilight zones of their careers and did not benefit enough for the talent they had.

“We had great players before Independence. It was great that some got a chance to play for the national team at Independence but could have played international football well before,” said Mabeza.

Among some of the players who inspired him were David George, Shaw Handriade, Kuda Muchemeyi, George Shaya, George Chieza, Tymon Mabaleka, Majuta Mpofu and Isaac Mafaro.

He said growing up here in Zimbabwe as a teenager he knew of the international isolation but got enlightened when he went to South Africa and realised how much locals were losing out. “Independence guaranteed that we return to continental competitions for clubs and national teams. Our best players got to play against other nations and got prospects to play anywhere they wanted in the world with proper clearances. I wanted exposure here in my country,” said Mabeza.

It would take up to 1987 for Zimbabwe to have its first European export straight from the local league and was Moses Chunga who moved to Belgium.

The then Highlanders executive scuttled Madinda Ndlovu’s move to Sheffield Wednesday in 1985 otherwise dozens had in the first six years of Independence answered the lure of the pula to Botswana.

However, former Highlanders goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar had moved to Liverpool, but via Vancouver White Caps of Canada and Crew United of England where he won medals including the European Cup in 1984. 

Mabeza played up to April of 1981 when he became the first player from Dynamos to move to Highlanders in independent Zimbabwe. One of his biggest memories at Dynamos was the only match he played alongside the great George Shaya.

“I passed the ball to him, instead of supporting him, I remained standing watching as he dribbled past defenders,” said Mabeza.

He said his welfare at Dynamos was well taken care of and he was alongside Japhet Mparutsa, Oliver Kateya and Edward Katsvere who were paid monthly allowances apart from winning bonuses.  

“The club rented an apartment for me in town. They paid me an allowance alongside Oliver Kateya and Edward Katsvere but the move to Highlanders was out of the desire for better welfare for myself,” said the former Nhenga Primary School attacking midfielder who carried on playing that role to Berejena.

At some stage he said he lived in the same house with the Chidzambwa brothers, Misheck and Sunday.

“It was great staying with the two players who knew the Dynamos culture and expectations. They made my settling down easier. They were professionals, hardworking footballers who encouraged everyone around them to pull up their stockings for the badge,” said Mabeza who was part of the Dynamos side that won the 1980 league championship.

Mabeza seemed to have impressed Highlanders coach, the late former Highlanders, Sables, St Paul’s Musami and Rhodesia stalwart centreback, James Nxumalo. He did not play for long under him though when he moved to a rebuilding Bosso but was happy to get a chance to play alongside one of his childhood heroes Tymon “Whitehorse” Mabaleka. Mabeza’s term of joining Highlanders included a job and a house.

“As part of my transfer, there was a house and a job. They got me a job at the Post and Telecommunications Company (PTC) and a house I still own in the western suburbs. The treasurer who was at the helm was the late Micah Gumpo and Malcom King was the chairman,” said Mabeza.

He found players like Fanuel Ncube, Ernest Sibanda, Lawrence Phiri, Peter Nkomo, Mabaleka and Macdonald Silongwe.

Mabeza left Highlanders in 1983 for Archer Stars under Gibson Homela.

“I was getting sidelined. There was now preference of youngsters that were coming from the Highlanders Reserves who were known as Liverpool,” said Mabeza.

His fortunes following his move to Bulawayo where he now had a job and a house continued to soar.

Mabeza studied at a private college for a certificate in management and marketing and advises players to study.

One day while seeking advice for a life policy for his daughter, he happened to have dropped his certificates and one Slyvester Maguma, a manager at Progressive Insurance saw the papers and immediately gave Mabeza a job as a salesman.  He would later become a manager of the Bulawayo branch.

A Caf B licence holder Mabeza has coached Kango, ZOC and Bulawayo Arsenal but is enjoying his days now with his own “baby” Achazia Sports Academy.

He enjoys the support from the parents of the 50 players at the academy who are giving him advice and wish the kids could put more hours into their grooming.

“I was happy to hear some of the parents saying the kids are playing less football and will not have the 10 000 hours considered reasonable in a player’s grooming. We have increased our training to three days a week and we will add more hours,” said Mabeza.

But he said the big take away from attaining Independence was the opening of the platform for Zimbabwe to play international football, the movement to better paying leagues and the growth of the soccer industry into a major employer.




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