How ‘Stix’ became a goalkeeper on his Super League debut WHAT AN ARTIST HE WAS . . . Stanford ‘’Stix’’ Mutizwa scored one of the best goals ever seen in this country against Highlanders in 1980 while he was turning out for CAPS Rovers (now CAPS United).

Tadious Manyepo-Sports Reporter

IT’S a day of reckoning for newly-promoted Glens Strikers in the then Rhodesia National Football League (RNFL).

They open their 1979 maiden championship campaign at Gwanzura against title favourites CAPS Rovers (now CAPS United).

They are the underdogs. By a considerable distance.

But they are never short on quality.

Archieford “Chehuchi’’ Chimutanda, David Mukahanana and Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa are all part of their scheme.

This is a team that the football chefs decided were too good to play in Division Two after their exploits in the Third Division in 1977.

This is a team which would wallop their opponents by as many as 24-0 while in the Third Division and after sealing promotion into Division Two, the authorities decided they would rather jump into Division One.

And they only needed a season to punch their ticket into the top-flight.

CAPS Rovers are their first hurdle.

A hefty undertaking in front of them.

Shackman “Mr Goals” Tauro, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Stephen Chisango and Joel “Jubilee” Shambo headline the CAPS Rovers outfit.

A tough game of wits awaits.

A capacity crowd makes the occasion grand.

But, Glens Strikers have the nerves.

They bombard their opponents with incredible fluidity.

A skinny Mutizwa, deploying as a box-to-box player, surprises the “Manchester Road Boys” with a brace, his goals sandwiching his midfield partner Mukahanana’s strike.

The match is beyond CAPS Rovers’ reach, as things stand.

But Glens Strikers goalkeeper Cleopas Rumano suffers a nasty injury.

He is the only goalkeeper for the team.

He is rushed to hospital with about 38 minutes still to play.

Coach Ashton “Papa” Nyazika panics. Mutizwa volunteers to keep the goal. At first Nyazika declines, but seeing the confidence, he agrees.

CAPS Rovers tilt the scales. The Lovemore Nyabeza-coached side get two goals in quick succession but they can’t score the equaliser.

“I think that remains one of the best games I have been involved in the history of my football career. I was a fearless midfielder and I enjoyed my game until our goalkeeper got injured,” said Mutizwa.

“I volunteered to be in goals because while growing up in Mbare, I also used to take that post here and there. So we were leading CAPS Rovers 3-0 when our goalkeeper Rumano suffered a nasty injury.

“I conceded two goals but then stood my ground to deny CAPS Rovers a third goal. The whole team congratulated me and I was even considering becoming a goalkeeper on a full-time basis.”

But that was going to be the last match Mutizwa played for Glens Strikers.

After the defeat, CAPS Rovers brought Nyazika and a host of players from Glens Strikers, including Mutizwa, into their fold with the coup d’etat coinciding with a split of the top-flight following the formation of the NPSL (National Professional Soccer League).

Mutizwa would form a formidable midfield combination with Shambo which remains arguably the best ever partnership in the history of the game in this country.

“Joel Shambo and I had a telepathic combination in the field of play. I knew exactly how he was going to run and where he would be the moment I got the ball on my feet.

“He could also read my movement and reaction in a split second. I think that’s the best I have ever played football.

“I used to put on Jersey Number 8 while Shambo used to put on Number 4. We used to play with just two midfielders in a 4-2-4 formation. That was the most popular formation back in those days,” said Mutizwa.

“Me and Shambo would interchange where I could venture forward more while he stayed back or vice-versa.

“But I used to do that more and you could tell with the number of goals I scored. I could compete with strikers like Shacky Tauro for goals”.

With Mutizwa and Shambo operating the engine room, the CAPS Rovers machine was efficient enough to win the league title in 1979.

Then 21-years-old, Mutizwa was voted the Soccer Star of the Year runner-up to Tauro in what was the beginning of a nine-time appearance on the Best 11 calendar in his illustrious career.

Only Joseph Zulu, who turned out for Rio Tinto, graced the Soccer Stars calendar more times (10) than Mutizwa in the history of this accolade.

“I was on the Soccer Stars calendar for nine times, the second highest appearance on the calendar after Joseph Zulu of Rio Tinto.

“I was a Soccer Star runner-up five times. I remember I was runner-up to Shacky Tauro (1979), Japhert Mparutsa (1981) and Masimba Dinyero (1989) as well.

“I missed out only in 1986 when I was injured and sent for rehab at Tsanga Lodge in Nyanga.”

Yet, the frail, skinny Mutizwa never looked like someone who would take the game of football by storm while growing up in Mhlanga Avenue in Mbare.

Even his mother didn’t approve of him going for an audition at Mutambara  Football Club which was playing in the Sadafa Amateur League when he was only 15.

It took their neighbour, former football administrator, Robert Tembo, to convince his mother to let him go for the trials.

But on seeing the young Mutizwa’s stature, Mutambara head coach Mudhara Masunda became sceptical and refused to play him.

However, one of the players didn’t turn up for the training session and Mutizwa was thrust in. He mesmerised on the flank, ably supported by Eddie “Madhobha’’ Katsvere, who himself would rise to become an important player for Dynamos and the rest is history.

After winning several accolades with CAPS Rovers (and later CAPS United), Mutizwa sensationally joined Black Rhinos in 1984, helping the army side win the league title on their maiden campaign and playing a key role in the CAF Champions League the following year when Rhinos became the first Zimbabwean team to reach the quarter-finals of the premier continental inter-club competition.

Now the head coach of Black Rhinos, Mutizwa says there were a lot of midfield combinations, besides his and Shambo’s, which he admired a lot.

They include Max “Shaluza’’ Tshuma and William Sibanda at Zimbabwe Saints, Tymon Mabaleka and Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda at Highlanders as well as Shaw “Kojak’’ Handiriade and Kuda “MaBla’’ Muchemeyi at Dynamos.

For the three-time league winner, who also won several other trophies like the Natbrew Cup, Chibuku Trophy and Rothmans Shield, the best goal he scored was against Highlanders in 1980, when he was still turning out for CAPS Rovers.

“I received a pin-point pass from Shambo which I trapped while rounding off Bosso’s Douglas ‘British’ Mloyi just outside the penalty arch.

“I unleashed a thunderbolt that beat goalkeeper Peter ‘Captain Oxo’ Nkomo and it hit the net before rolling back into play.

“The referee was Frank Valdermark and he didn’t see what had happened. He followed me where I was celebrating and he asked ‘Stike, has the ball hit the net?’, and I said yes.

“Apparently (Highlanders goalkeeper) Nkomo was holding the ball after it had rolled back from the net. The referee was not convinced and he asked his assistant who was also unsure.

“But after consultations with others, including some Bosso players, the goal was given. I can’t forget that.”

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