The Sunday Mail
He fell in love with football at the age of six, faked an arrest to get away from work so that he could watch his beloved Glamour Boys play and has, through the world’s most beautiful game, been to 29 countries. The Sunday Mail Society’s Veronica Gwaze went back in time with Aluvha in this edge-of-the-seat adventure story. Read on…
At one point in his journey, Aluvha had to de-activate all his social media accounts, not only out of frustration but also out of his undeterred zeal to conquer the Cape to Cairo journey without disruption.
A qualified nurse with a football heart, Aluvha could possibly be the Christopher Columbus of football as he journeyed from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt – a dream that imperialist Cecil John Rhodes harboured over 100 years ago.
The Mabvuku-bred warriors fan got social media abuzz when together with his friend, Botha Msila, embarked on a 10 000-kilometre road trip.
His daredevil’s soul and unique fighting spirit is etched beneath his tiny stature and passionate smile.
But to get to the full story of Alvin “Aluvha” Zhakata’s daring Cape to Cairo voyage, it is important to start from the beginning.
The journey started in South Africa on May 21.
Together with his friend Msila, a Bafana Bafana supporter, they moved with the same spirit of supporting their countries.
Aluvha did not even tell his family that he was embarking on the journey as he feared that they would talk him out of the journey.
As a qualified medical practitioner, Aluvha made sure to carry important medication in his backpack.
As they yassed through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, slowly trudging towards Cairo, social media was awash with stories about the duo.
Many people found themselves asking just who this young Zimbabwean football fanatic was.
Well, Alvin Zhakata fell in love with football when he was only six years old after watching a Harare derby with his father Onismo, a Caps United fan.
On that very day, at that tender age, Aluvha fell in love with the boys in blue, Dynamos.
He vividly recalls the Glamour Boys’ one nil victory that sealed his romance with the club.
And on that day, his father vowed never to take him to the stadium again.
But the young enthusiast had to devise a plan to make it to the football pitch whenever his team had a match.
“My love for football came after watching a Harare derby during my primary school days at Saint Hughes in Chitungwiza before I proceeded to Mabvuku High. With a small frame, playing on the pitch was a challenge but being naturally talkative, the coaches always took me along to their games,” Zhakata narrated.
An avid follower of local and international football news, he became influential in making decisions for his school team. He also fell in love with one of Dynamos all-time lethal forwards, “Flying Doctor” Tauya Murehwa. He remembers how he always had soccer magazines and Murehwa’s images in his school bag.
He would read Kick-Off, Mega Football and Total Football magazines, which he either got from his friends or purchased with his pocket money savings.
After becoming a nurse, Zhakata’s feisty love for football would always compromise his work. He confessed that at times, he would fail to catch up with his work responsibilities.
“My love for football always came in the way and I ended up missing my duties. This forced me to resort to part-time jobs in private hospitals.”
Born second in a family of five, Zhakata grew up in a devout Catholic family. His parents used to complain about his passion for football but it constantly brought him back to the stadium.
One day Aluvha had to fake an arrest to go and watch Dynamos during one of their mid-week games.
As fate would have it, gripped by his mad love for the Glamour Boys, Aluvha got overzealous and as usual went into his wild cheering mode.
Cameras caught up with him, and his videos and pictures went viral, ultimately landing him in hot soup with his superiors at work.
“I got into trouble but since then, they understood my love for the game. I was given flexible timetables. I would take extra shifts to cover up if I wanted to go and watch a game,” recollects Aluvha.
Through Dynamos, Zhakata’s love for the Warriors was conceived and so far he has been to 29 countries through football.
In 2016, he followed the Warriors to Rwanda for the African Nations Championship (CHAN). He did so by road and arrived after six days.
“I was not certain how I would get to Rwanda, my route got diverted along the way because of some security issues. It was scary and frustrating at times but that trip was the origin of the Cape to Cairo adventure,” narrated Aluvha.
When Egypt was nominated as the 2019 AFCON hosts, Zhakata felt it was the right time for his trip.
In his notebook, he drafted the 10 000-kilometre journey master plan.
During his trip, Zhakata also wanted to analyse the levels of football passion in other countries that had teams at the AFCON.
Having travelled swiftly past Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, together with his mate Botha, they had to confront their testing times at the Kenya/Ethiopia border when they were told they could not proceed into Ethiopia without an e-visa.
The duo was disappointed. For a visa that could be applied in thirty minutes, theirs took several days.
Aluvha took to social media: “We embarked on this journey knowing we were bound to come across such challenges or worse but not even this setback could dissuade us from standing for our conviction. We are resilient soldiers and our courage is unbending.”
He still has memories of their sleepless nights at the border in a neglected room with vicious mosquitoes.
Still stranded at the Kenya/Ethiopia border, on the third day, Botha and some locals threw him a surprise 32nd birthday party.
Aluvha recalls how emotional the birthday celebration was, as he shed tears of passion and pain together with Botha.
“We took turns to cry, we were trapped in a foreign land. At one time Botha lost it, he was crying, stomping his foot on the ground and punching walls because of frustration.”
Botha was to later give up on the trip.
“I was broken when Botha finally gave up on the journey. I tried to persuade him to stay but he was too frustrated and eventually he left.”
Alone, a resilient Aluvha finally got his visa and entered Ethiopia.
But Addis Ababa, the capital, was in a political lockdown.
There was no internet connectivity in that city but Zimbabwean Embassy officials in Ethiopia came through for their countrymen.
Despite that, it was not getting easier for Aluvha, who at times got overwhelmed due to pressure.
“Some people were sending messages to say I should go to the nearest airport so that they could fly me to Egypt. Some asked me to return home, the pressure was just too much.”
When it sounded noble to take the offers or return home, the “gallant Warrior” remained determined to complete his journey by road.
This attracted a lot of criticism from his well-wishers. Some even had “cruel words” for him.
Aluvha had to delete his social media accounts to remain focused on his mission. For three days, he was untraceable. Without communication on his whereabouts, the public and his family got into panic mode.
On June 30, he got to Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, where he confronted what he reckons was his worst moment. There was a political bedlam and the military had been deployed on the streets.
“I was taken in and questioned in very uncomfortable ways by the military for about 30 minutes,” he paused, almost in tears.
“It felt like an eternity. That was the darkest moment of my life,” he said, revealing that at that juncture, he actually said his last prayers as he thought the time to meet his maker had come.
The die-hard football fan, with tears threatening to roll down his boyish face, was not keen to continue narrating his Sudanese ordeal.
Aluvha believes that his time in Sudan was a real test of his patience, characterised by sleepless nights, tears, frustration and loss of huge sums of money.
After 44 days in the wilderness, he finally received his Egyptian visa.
And within hours of arriving in Cairo, his fortunes completely changed.
The book ‘Cape to Cairo’
Although most of his life is about football, it is mostly the 10 000-kilometre Cape to Cairo adventure that compelled Aluvha to write a book and compile a visual documentary.
Titled ‘Cape to Cairo’, his project, which is still work in progress, will narrate the fervent Warriors fan’s football life as well as give the Cape to Cairo expedition details.
However, Aluvha revealed that by publication time, if he has not yet healed psychologically, he will not include details of his Sudanese nightmare in the book.
“I am yet to find the guts to share the nightmare. If l still feel the same by the time I finish my book and the visual documentary, I will not include the details in the book.”
The book will also chronicle the lessons learnt during the Cape to Cairo trip and in his football life.
Having had the privilege the meet the Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad, Aluvha will also share the details of their discussions.
“Ahmad also asked me to compile a document highlighting the challenges l encountered, the lessons from this journey as well as my recommendations. For me, that is an immense contribution to African football and is the biggest take away from this Cape to Cairo adventure,” he chuckled.