The Sunday Mail
MARTIN MANGONGO cuts the figure of a person who should never be found anywhere near a rugby pitch, let alone stand on it.
But, after a couple of months with the Sables, the diminutive winger has managed to stand out.
While sports fanatics might argue on how he has succeeded to make such a great impression in rugby, his big heart, immense talent, and last name have certainly contributed to that.
Martin is Steve Mangongo’s nephew. Steve is the former Zimbabwe Under-19 cricket team coach.
“The Mangongo name carries a lot of weight and expectation. My whole family are sportsmen and women,” said Mangongo.
“My father, Gibson Mangongo, was a football and cricket player. He is actually the one who taught Uncle Steve how to play cricket in the streets of Highfield.
“Now he just dabbles in a little social soccer here and there.
“My brothers Neville and Anesu (late) played sports too, mostly rugby,” he said.
Sadly, only Steve and Martin are still active in sports.
The duty to carry on the family name has since been handed over to Mangongo. A simple chat with Steve led him to the rugby pitch.
But, it has not an easy route for the Sables winger, who took some time to find himself.
“Uncle Steve sat down with me and advised me to choose one sport and concentrate on it,” said Mangongo.
Apart from being a pianist, Mangongo has tried his hand in football, cricket, hockey, taekwondo and rugby, going as far as representing the country in all the disciplines, with the exception of football.
“I have played Zimbabwe Under-19 cricket and even went to the World Cup. l have also represented my country in hockey, rugby and even taekwondo, where I am a third Dan black belt.
“lf it was not for the fact that rugby, largely due to my older brothers, is my first love, I could have pursued cricket. And I also wanted to carve my own path,” he said.
Once his heart was set on rugby, Mangongo’s path to stardom became clearer.
He made his debut for Mutare Sports Club at the tender age of 14 in 2012.
“I love rugby mainly because it challenges me the most. I love its physical nature and I love the brotherhood and the friendships that I have gained through the sport.”
Now 21 years old and seven years into his semi-professional career, Mangongo’s world is full of possibilities.
He is currently on the books of CKRA Warsaw in Poland, having come through the ranks at Mutare Sports Club, Mountain Lions, Hamilton Rugby Club and Western Province in South Africa. He has also had a short stint in France.
But, despite all these exploits, the former St John’s and Peterhouse student made his international debut for the Sables in July.
The game means so much for the winger, who has since dedicated it to his late brother Anesu.
“So far, the highlight of my career has been my debut for the Sables against Zambia. lt allowed me to do something, pay a tribute to my brother who recently passed away.
“I managed to score my first international try, which was a treat.
I will never be able to describe the feeling of running out there to your home crowd, singing the national anthem and putting on that jersey to represent your country,” said Mangongo.