Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
TWENTY-SEVEN years have passed but an incident at Sakubva in 1993, which left him wheelchair-bound for over a year, remains fresh in his mind.
For Lazarus Muhoni, it’s only a miracle he managed to go on to play professional football for Tanganda, Buffaloes, Black Rhinos, CAPS United and Dynamos.
He helped the Warriors secure qualification, for the first time, at the AFCON finals.
Muhoni was also part of the Dynamos side which reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League in 2008.
Yet, that tackle by Paul Gundani, in a tense duel between Tanganda and Lancashire Steel, almost forced him to follow a different career path.
“Miracles do happen. I don’t know how to explain it but I believe in the power of God and that is why I have decided to commit most of my time ministering His word through gospel music,” said Muhoni.
“I was still a Form Four student in a team that boasted of top talent like Spencer Ngove, Johnson Mbaradza, Patrick Chapoterera, Blessing Gumiso, Ian Matondo and Dananai Chinowawa.
“I was on the bench and was thrust into action, with 15 minutes left on the clock.
“I made an off-the-ball run, breaking Lancashire Steel’s well co-ordinated zonal marking, and Lloyd Mutasa found me with a lofted pass.
“I trapped the ball, screening Gundani who caught my left knee as I was about to dribble past him.” Muhoni, who is now running his events management business in Mutare, only remembers waking up on hospital bed.
“I was in excruciating pain. It was in July and I was supposed to sit for my Ordinary Level examinations in three months’ time,’’ said Muhoni.
“I wouldn’t walk, even with the aid of clutches, so I had to be confined to a wheelchair.
“I couldn’t prepare well for my examinations as I was in so much pain.”
The Tanganda team bus would pick Muhoni at home to and from school, until he finished writing the eight subjects.
He passed them all.
Weeks after completing the exams, Muhoni started to walk, with aid of clutches.
“My dream to excel as a footballer had been strangled by that injury and there was definitely no way I would come out of that situation to play competitive football again,’’ he said.
“So, it just happened that one day, in 1994, with tears in my eyes, I decided to be early at my Presbyterian church.
“As I reached the gate, I fell to the ground in a strange way.
“’I started crying and, for the first time, in over a year, I felt strong, that’s how my knee healed.’’ But, for months, Muhoni wouldn’t risk kicking a ball until he decided to take part in a Buffaloes training session in 1995.
For four years, Muhoni played for Buffaloes along with players who included Ndega Matsika, Shadreck Magurasave, Eddie Dube, Simba Manzungu and Eddie Nyika.
He would join Black Rhinos at the turn of the millennium where he excelled and won the 2002 Golden Boot after netting 27 goals.
That was the same year the retired soldier scored the only goal that floored Mali to set the tone for the 2004 AFCON qualification campaign in Tunisia. He was then involved in the Warriors’ first goal at the Nations Cup finals.
“There are so many moves, and goals, which I can point out as the highlights of my career but, playing a part in that opening goal against Egypt, is something I cherish up to this day.
“Helping the Warriors qualify for back-to-back AFCON finals in 2004 and 2006, and playing a part in both tournaments, rank as some of my best moments in my career that spanned for close to two decades.
“Going on to play for CAPS United, and winning several Zimbabwe Defence Forces trophies, as well as the Independence Trophy in 2003, are all moments that I cherish.”
Muhoni is now planning to establish a football academy in Mutare.