The Sunday Mail
AFTER putting up a match-winning performance on his Warriors debut against Malawi last week, rookie national team goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva is not sitting on his laurels as he knows competition is stiff for the coveted No. 1 jersey.
“This is a sacred jersey, not guaranteed at all and one has to work hard for it because there are a number of good goalkeepers out there,” said Mukuruva during the week, as he revelled in glory after his heroic performance in Blantyre.
At just 19, the Dynamos goalie was thrown into the deep end ahead of seniors Washington Arubi and George Chigova as well as another rising shot-stopper Donovan Bernard, but the composed ‘keeper was up to the task.
The Prince Edward School product pulled off a series of top drawer saves as the Warriors coasted to a historic 2-1 away win in their opening Afcon 2017 qualifier.
Only two seasons ago, Mukuruva was the third choice behind Chigova and Artwell Mukandi at DeMbare and last season he made cameo appearances as cover-up for the latter, but the boy’s meteoric rise has seen him shoot into contention for the Warriors’ No. 1 jersey in a short space of time.
However, the Budiriro-bred ‘keeper is aware there are a number of safe hands in the country and refuses to call himself “Warriors Number 1.”
“I still have a long way to go before I can be the Warriors number one ‘keeper. Remember, there are a lot of good goalkeepers in the country.
“The fact that I was given the nod doesn’t necessarily mean I am now the best in the country. I still take my hat off to my seniors Washie (Arubi) and Chigova.
“I have a lot to learn from them as I grow in this trade. I have to keep working hard and I know I will get there,” said Mukuruva ahead of today’s CHAN preliminary round clash against Comoros.
Maturing earlier than expected has always been in the youngster’s blood from his days at Prince Edward where he wrestled the first team jersey when he was only in Form Two.
Last year, he broke into DeMbare’s starting line-up whilst he was still an Upper Six pupil at Prince Edward.
And last week he got his first national cap in style, putting up a stellar performance that won him admirers across Africa as the Afcon qualifier was beamed live on Supersport 3.
“Perhaps that is my nature, I do not panic and I think the way I was brought up soccer-wise at Prince Edward has a direct bearing.
“My experience with DeMbare has also come in handy. Every match is a high pressure one at DeMbare, those thousands of fans are always demanding and perhaps that has helped me to calm my nerves.
“In Blantyre last week, my man, it was hectic and no one expected us to pull off that result, but just like our coach Pasuwa told us, we believed in ourselves.
“The huge crowd against us did not matter, once I made the first save I got into the groove.
“In fact, I wanted a clean sheet on my Warriors debut, but in football you do not always get what you want,” he said.
Although he has grown into a Warrior, Mukuruva is still a mummy’s boy back at their home in Harare’s high-density suburb of Budiriro.
His mother Mickey Nembire makes sure the son’s “things are always in order” and follows all of Mukuruva’s games.
“Most of the times she calls me just before kick-off, usually when we are on our way to the stadium. She usually says ‘my son, stay calm and do not disappoint’,” said Mukuruva.
His father Hillary made cameo appearances for DeMbare back in the 80s, but never really made it big.
He, however, featured more for the country’s Five-Aside squad.
Dynamos assistant coach Tonderayi Ndiraya always believed in the youngster when he started working with him at Prince Edward about five years ago.
Late last year Ndiraya had this to say about Mukuruva when he broke into DeMbare’s starting line-up following Mukandi’s hip injury: The young man has a strong mentality and I am sure he will go places. It is difficult to break into a big team like Dynamos at that age.
“He has developed faster and has some rare attributes. I always believed he would perform at the same level as Arty (Mukandi) and George (Chigova),” Ndiraya told The Sunday Mail then.
At Prince Edward, Mukuruva was in the same class as fellow Warriors teammates Tino Kadewere and Gerald Takwara.
Highlanders striker Thomas Chideu was in the same stream, but in a different class and the quartet always enjoyed a close football relationship.
That kind of bond has lasted till today as they now form part of the Warriors squad and Kadewere feels proud of his “old boy” Mukuruva.
“We feel proud of him, he is one of us and we have always supported each other from our school days,” said Kadewere.
“Being from the same school is helping us settle into the Warriors set-up, we have our time to reminisce about the school days and always share the same rooms when in camp,” said Chideu.