The Sunday News
Where there is a will there is a way!
This rings true for Blessing “Gumi Gumi” Gumiso who had a burning passion to turn out for Highlanders Football Club when he was just 15.
He was affectionately known as “Gumi Gumi” by Highlanders fans because he was known for tough tackling, brave blocking and sheer determination to resist opposition attacks.
But fulfilling the dream was a mammoth task for him since he was in Mutare, which is about 579 kilometres from Bulawayo.
He had no idea how he would get to the City of Kings and Queens but he had the determination. He lived it as he turned out for Tanganda United FC’s Under-12, 16, and 18 subsequently the senior team when it changed its name to Mutare United after Tanganda FC sponsors withdrew their backing in 1995.
While Gumi Gumi was trying to settle down and prove that he could deliver, Mutare United faced financial challenges and it was sold to a Gweru lawyer who changed its name to Gweru United which was coached by Beaven Gwamure and one Thebe.
However, Gweru United did not last the run as it ran out of steam and as a result it was relegated to the second tier league.
When Gweru United was relegated, he returned to his home town but his dream of turning out for Highlanders made him uneasy. It was not long before he packed his bags and headed to Bulawayo which was a virtually new city to him. Having been born and bred in Mutare where the predominant language is Chimanyika, he was not conversant with isiNdebele.
Fortunately, he met Gift Lunga Jr. He asked him where Highlanders conduct their training. At first Gift mistook him for the late Blessing Makunike who, coincidentally, also hailed from Mutare and was a key figure at Caps United FC.
“But I told him that I was Blessing Gumiso and wanted to join Highlanders. Gift welcomed me,” he remembers.
For him to fit into the Highlanders culture and ideology, Gift took it upon himself to teach him isiNdebele basics and being an intelligent person, he quickly grasped the concepts in no time and became conversant with the language.
Gift introduced him to then Highlanders’ coach, Rahman “Rush” Gumbo, who quickly accepted him into the system as his commitment and desire to succeed won him the heart of Rush.
But Rush told him that he would not play in the forthcoming Cosmos Cellular Cup as he was not registered to play for the cup. After that he thought Gumbo did not fancy his style of play. As a result he crossed the floor to try his luck at the now defunct Railstars FC.
Gumbo became concerned when he discovered that Gumiso was seen training with Njanji as Railstars was fondly known by football enthusiast and pundits alike.
Rush telephoned him and ordered him to return. He obliged. He was afforded game time in the reserve side but he did not stay long as his high work rate and good foot work became a plus for him to get noticed by the reserve side coach Peter Nkomo and the late Benjamin Moyo.
“I am thankful to Peter Nkomo because he is the one who recommended me to the head coach after watching me and the head coach was impressed,” said Gumiso.
The coach told him he had to work hard for him to be up for selection and had to compete for the jersey with Melusi Mabaleka and Alexander Phiri. For him to win the confidence of the coach he had to work hard.
“I worked hard, as such I woke early to do some route exercises and went to the gym thrice a week and that helped me to gain recognition from the coaches,” said Gumiso.
Gumiso became the defensive lynchpin for his team. He became an integral part in the team of 1998/99 that comprised the likes of Thabani Masawi and Zenzo Moyo in the strike force department, Charles Chilufya, Bekithemba Ndlovu, defence was marshalled by Thulani Ncube assisted by Dazzy Kapenya, Gift Lunga Junior was a roving left back while Bekithemba and Simon Sibanda were on the right side of defence. In the goal keeping department there was Amon Chimbalanga, Pope Moyo and Malvin Moyo. In the middle of the park there was Johannes Ngodzo, Sizabantu Khoza and Richard Choruma.
Being arguably a good reader of the game as well good in organising the midfield contributed to the team effort that helped his team land the league title in 1998/99.
“I was happy when my team won the league title as that converted my parents and community members back home to support it,” he recounts.
Blessing has only pleasant memories of his stay at Highlanders.
“I had a good time at Highlanders as we were under the leadership of Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda who was strict but charismatic and motivated us to give it all on the field of play,” he said.
He reckons the teams that won the league title from 1998/9 to 2002 were a committed and talented squad.
His memorable game at Highlanders was when he scored an equaliser when his team was trailing Arcadia 0-1 in the first stanza of the match.
“We were beaten 1-0 in the first half. I came from the bench as I was nursing an injury and scored an equaliser in the dying moments of the game. What made me happy is that we were at par with our arch-rivals DeMbare and my goal helped my team to gain the top spot,” he said.
His memorable stay at the black and white army is when they beat Sable-De Batie of Cameroon in the club champions league at Barbourfields 3-0 but sadly lost 3-0 in the reverse fixture, which resulted in a penalty shootout which they lost to bow of the Champions League.
“What made it more sad was that we failed to reach the mini-league stages where we could market ourselves and benefit from financial incentives from the lucrative mini-league stages,” he remembers.
At Highlanders he played under Gumbo, Eddy May and Willard Khumalo. After four years of turning for Bosso Gumiso felt he had fulfilled his dream of turning out for his beloved team. As he was contemplating his next move, officials of the now defunct Sporting Lions owner Thomas Mapfumo lured him with a lucrative offer. But his move almost collapsed after Bosso officials lodged a complaint that he had a running contract with them and due to that, he spent six months training but not afforded game time since the matter was before the courts.
Seeing his exploits on the field of play Sporting Lions coach, Lloyd Mutasa had patience with him and facilitated the promised offer. “I had won every accolade at Bosso but I needed a house. Sporting Lions lured me with a house offer. As a result I grabbed the opportunity and joined them.
They bought me a house in my home town of Sakubva in Mutare,” he said.
He spent a season at Sporting Lions and left to try his luck at Dynamos but the move suffered a stillbirth.
“When I was about to sign for DeMbare, Masvingo United owner Tanda Tavaruva popularly known as “Mhunga” came up a with better offer and I left to join Masvingo United where I spent a year before leaving for the now defunct AmaZulu where I spent six months.”
After spending half a season with AmaZulu he joined Eiffel Wild Cats where he spent six months. While he was with Eiffel Flats his former coach at Bosso,Willard Khumalo who was in charge of Mwana Africa at the time lured him to join Mwana Africa.
He spent three seasons before he retired from soccer in 2009. At the moment he plays social soccer and turns out for Gwabalanda Old Timers.
He is now an independent soccer talent scout. He runs a sports shop in Mutare and sells sports T-shirts for Highlanders.
Born 38 years ago, Gumiso is married to Patience Chimoyo. The couple is blessed with two daughters — Nina (13) and Owami (8).
He is a Christian and fellowships at United Methodist.