The Sunday Mail
ALTHOUGH social and insignificant, the match between Kwekwe and Gweru legends at a rundown Amaveni Stadium last Sunday was a painful reminder of a bygone era.
The composition of the Kwekwe team made many in attendance reminisce about the good old days when the mining town used to churn out football stars year in, year out.
Former Chrome Stars, Blackpool, Circle Cement, Air Zimbabwe and Warriors fringe goalkeeper Shaiso Chiduku was in goals.
Shadreck “Ziguru” Malunga, who turned out for Lancashire Steel before his exploits attracted Harare teams including giants Dynamos, towered in defence.
Former Highlanders star forward Simba Gate and Isaac Nyabvure, who won the 1999 Madison Trophy with Lancashire Steel, also showcased the little that is left in their old and tired legs. Nesbert Gwede, a highly rated dribbler who was part of the Ziscosteel side that contested in the maiden Premier Soccer League competition in 1993, also ran for some few minutes on a waterlogged Amaveni, which is now in a sorry state.
Mbizo Stadium, which was once known as “The home of Kwekwe football”, is also dilapidated and dysfunctional.
Baghdad — situated a few kilometres away from Mbizo and the site of many interesting top-flight battles — was home to the now-defunct Lancashire Steel.
The venue is also in poor state, but still hosts some Division One games.
It’s the same story with Torwood, which was once home to Ziscosteel but now looks more like a grazing field.
There has been no Premiership football in Kwekwe since 2008 when Lancashire Steel were relegated.
Yet, this is a town that is famed for producing yesteryear stars like Benedict “Grinder” Moyo, Ephraim Dzimbiri and 1984 Soccer Star of the Year James Takavada.
Kennedy Nagoli — the only Zimbabwean player to break into the Brazilian top-flight — also hails from Kwekwe, as did the late Paul Gundani.
Luke Petros Jukulile, George Magariro, Petros Sibanda, Misheck Kwangwari, Dick Moyana, Stephen Sande, Norman Komani, Justice Majabvi and Stephen Alimenda, Washington Arubi, Tafadzwa Dube are some of the ex-footballers who trace their roots to Kwekwe. Sadly, it is all history now and the present doesn’t look good at all.
All that is left is Division One side Kwekwe United, as well as Tongogara and ZPC Munyati, who are based on the outskirts of the town. Kwekwe is actually yearning for a return of the golden years.
Luckily, there seems to be a change in mindset amongst some football stakeholders in the mining town.
Most of them agree only one strategy can reinvigorate the game.
“We need to go back to the original settings. Junior football development is the only way we can start afresh,” Shaiso Chiduku told The Sunday Mail Sport.
With financial assistance from local businessman Tawanda Phiri, Chiduku is spearheading Amaveni Academy, a football nursery in the town’s oldest suburb.
“The youngsters we have identified are good and the future looks bright. We also need to put our heads together as football people and revive the Kwekwe junior league.”
Apart from Lancashire Steel, which played 14 seasons in the elite league between 1995 and 2008, the town had teams such as Tongogara, Chrome Stars and Nani Mchiwa’s Kwekwe Cables.Chrome Stars and Cables have since gone under.
“It’s quite disheartening that a town that at one time had at least two Premiership clubs now has no single team in the PSL,” said former Dynamos chairperson Partson Moyo, who was born and bred in the town.
“It’s something that really worries. We will not have answers for our children.
“Surely, we need to refocus and start up something in Kwekwe because this is the hub in terms of talent that emanates from areas such as Zhombe, Gokwe, Silobela and the like.
“So, yeah, we need to rehabilitate football. I feel obliged to do something for the revival of Kwekwe,” said Moyo.
“Most of the talented players back then came from Kwekwe. My Dynamos team, which reached the CAF Champions League semi-final in 2008, had players from Kwekwe like Sam Mutenheri, Brighton Tuwaya and Justice Majabvi.
“If we get together, I don’t have a problem in contributing to the start-up of football in Kwekwe.”
Former director of the now-defunct Ivan Hoe, Kuhn Dongo, feels individual sponsorship of clubs is not enough.
“We have individuals trying to run clubs but it’s difficult to sustain a club in this economic environment.
“We had Ivan Hoe, owned by individuals, and it’s now defunct. I just hope, as one of Ivan Hoe’s directors, that one day we will be back.
“Now we also have Kwekwe United also owned by individuals.
“I guess the way to go is to start from grassroots,” he said.
There are three academies in the town – Amaveni, Mbizo and Gate, which is being run by Simbarashe Gate.
“If you want to develop, you need to go step by step.
“However, football is economy-based. Football needs money and if you don’t have resources, there is nothing much you can do.
“Lack of resources killed football,” said Dongo.
Former Ziscosteel star Gwede feels the dearth of football in Kwekwe has an impact on the national team.
“Back then, Kwekwe contributed players to the national team like Paul Gundani, Kennedy Nagoli, Petros Sibanda and Luke Petros. But now it’s all gloom and more gloom,” said Gwede.
“I don’t like the prevailing situation at all. You don’t see any juniors playing anymore, so I wonder where we are going as a football town.”
Gwede turned out for Ziscosteel in the early 1990s alongside Newman Bizeki, Nagoli and Gundani.
“Football in Kwekwe can be revived. We need people to put their differences aside and work towards one goal.
“We are a mining hub and all the money is here in Kwekwe, so what’s the problem?”
Ex-Masvingo United and Motor Action forward Gate is back from India and has been pushing for the revival of junior football through his Gate Academy.
“The problem in Kwekwe right now is not talent but sponsorship. Most of these big businesspeople are not football-oriented.
“Funny enough, they channel a lot of money into boozers’ football,” he said.
“When I was growing up in Mbizo 16, I used to walk 10km to go and train with Lancashire Steel juniors.
“We would curtain-raise for some PSL matches at Baghdad and we would get some gifts from big players like Memory Mucherahowa, who was playing for Dynamos back then.
“It was highly motivating; you would want to emulate them. But today we don’t have teams with proper junior structures,” said Gate.
Nyabvure won the Madison Trophy in 1999 with Lancashire Steel, who were then under the guidance of the late Ashton “Papa” Nyazika.
He is now a worried man.
“We are pleading with companies in Kwekwe to pool their resources together and at least bring back the vibrancy.
“Football is our life,” he says.
“We have a lot of good youngsters but they lack the platform to showcase their talent. If you have noticed, almost all the PSL teams have a player who traces his roots to Kwekwe.”
The scarcity of teams in Kwekwe is also affecting careers of young coaches like Arnold Dangarembizi, a CAF C License holder who is currently unemployed.
He lost his job recently when Northern Region Division One side Beta XI sold its franchise.
He was assisting Thanks Tengwe.
“As young coaches, we do not have many opportunities. So you would expect that in your home town, in a place that you grew up in, you would be given that opportunity,” said the 29-year-old gaffer.
“The scarcity of football teams in our area has a negative impact on us because we don’t get the opportunities to show our talent.
“When you want to get a job outside, they want proven people, and it’s difficult for a young coach to move into a different set-up.
“Our hometown should provide platforms that will expose us to the outside world.”
There are some like former Lancashire Steel and Dynamos player Malunga who feel the quality of players emerging from Kwekwe is now poor.
“If you look at Lancashire Steel, they had junior teams from Under-12. That’s how a player is developed.
“That system or structure produced better players than those we are seeing today,” he said.