Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
THE “film” still plays in her mind.
All the characters are right on her fingertips. Of course, she was the main actor. She was mobbed at the end of the set.
Her unique hairstyle, which was too outstanding to ignore, only added to the fun.
For her, the moment still feels plucked from an episode in the afterlife.
Those moments, which in recollection, soothe her anatomy.
Yet, it’s exactly six years since the Mighty Warriors’ historic appearance at the Olympic Games in Brazil.
But, for more reasons than one, goalkeeper Lindiwe Magwede, doesn’t feel the games happened half-a-dozen years ago.
Then, just 24-years-old, Magwede was content to be just on the plane to the global showcase. She was a fringe squad member, with a single national cap attained in a low key friendly against Lesotho in a match coach Shadreck Mlauzi wanted to assess his lower string team.
She was right for expecting to spend the entire tournament as a training aid. In huge tournaments like this, coaches usually do not have time for any experiments.
Zimbabwe, by far the camp outsiders, were to open their campaign against powerhouse Germany on August 3, 2016, in Sao Paulo.
Mlauzi gathered his team on the eve of that match. He opened with a pep talk, as usual.
Then came the shocker.
“Lindi (Magwede),” he announced.
“You are our goalkeeper for tomorrow’s match. I know, just like everyone else, you are ready.”
Magwede, struggling to contain her utter shock, just nodded and Mlauzi went ahead to name the rest of the First X1.
“I can’t really describe how I felt when I heard my name being called,” recalls Magwede. “I was anxious. In a way, I was like, is this supposed to be a dream as I headed back to my room.”
This is a player who had grown accustomed to a role as a striker before she was converted to be a goalkeeper by the Cyclone Queens coach, Yohane Chikaola, back in 2014.
Chikaola said they had a crisis at the team and he thought, given her height, Magwede would fit the shoes.
“That’s how we decided to convert her into being a goalkeeper,” he said.
Upon reaching her room, Magwede’s inbox was flooded with good luck messages from friends and family, most of whom had no idea she would start the match against Germany.
Mangwede needed to concentrate more than interact. But one message struck her.
It had been sent by one of her childhood friends, Rudo Muredi.
She was back in Magwede Village in Zaka in Masvingo Province.
“I know you are stronger than what you even think. Tomorrow, the whole village will gather at our homestead, to watch you in action on television. Hopefully you will play, if you do, just know all the people down here will be with you all the way,” read the message which Magwede has kept up to this day.
Zimbabwe went on to lose the match 6-1 but not before the Mlauzi team charmed the world with their resilience and Magwede was the linchpin in that spirited show, keeping out the Germans several times, including saving a penalty.
Back in the village, she became an instant hero and a role model.
Just to see one of them on television, representing the country with distinction, blew them away.
“We were so proud. I mean, we were hearing stories that she was now a soccer player in Harare but we never thought she would represent the country one day,” said a villager, Maxwell Mutuka.
“We felt so proud as a village or should I say as a district to seeing one of our own helping to hoist the country’s flag.”
It was probably more surprising given the circumstances in which Magwede was raised in this village.
“We would walk for about 10 kilometres to and from St Antony’s Primary School.
“That’s the same distance we also covered while attending Zaka Secondary,” said Magwede.
“But things were not easy growing up. I was raised by my maternal grandparents. There were so many grandchildren at the homestead and we always had to fight for everything.
“All my school life, I was wearing slopes. I never had shoes, not even once until I started working for myself as a footballer.
“We had to work hard to help our grandparents. That’s how I developed the resolve I still carry up to this day.
“Do I look like a man? Yes, I do and growing up, sometimes I would overhear people talking about me.
“It really affected me, my confidence, things like that…
“I couldn’t wait to finish school and chase after a better life.
‘’Immediately after our Ordinary Level results came out, I decided to join the Zimbabwe National Army. I did everything and was scheduled to undergo training in 2008.
‘’My grandparents really wanted me to be part of the army and I also loved it”.
But somehow, Magwede decided to drop the idea as soon as her stepfather invited her to Harare. “He said: ‘Look, I heard you once represented Masvingo Province in the National Youth Games. There could be an opportunity for you to pursue a professional footballing career’.”
But her grandmother, Gladys Macharangwanda, was against the idea.
She wanted Magwede to secure her future in the army.
“I really wanted her to become a soldier,” she told The Herald.
“I wanted her to pursue that path. But in this case she defied me. It really surprised me given she was one girl who took every piece of advice I gave her.
“But I am grateful, she managed to change her life story completely through football.”
After the Olympic Games, Magwede became a big name.
However, her career would encounter some humps.
In 2017, she was flagged and was subjected to testosterone tests to ascertain whether she wasn’t playing with some advantage.
She subsequently missed the Women’s African Cup of Nations in 2016 before she was cleared by CAF. Now playing for Herentals Queens, Magwede is a target for some Spanish clubs who have been knocking on the doors over the past few months.