HIS last dance with the domestic Premiership was covered in a blaze of glory, celebrating the last of the three domestic league titles he won as part of a special group of footballers whose immortality would be sealed — without him in their ranks — just months after his departure. Three league championships in four years and coming within just 180 minutes of becoming champions of Africa, these players can brag about being the greatest Glamour Boys ever without many people accusing them of having probably lost their senses.
Of course, the All-Star Team of ’76, which started an unprecedented domestic dominance in which Dynamos won seven championships in nine years — including four on the trot from the turn of the ‘80s — will always argue otherwise.
They will probably also argue they would have conquered Africa in ’76, if they had taken part in the old CAF Cup of Club Champions and not been frozen out of the tournament by the politics of the day and their 4-1 hammering of Orlando Pirates at Rufaro to be crowned champions of Southern Africa provides more evidence that they were from a different era.
And, they will also say, they had George Shaya.
Kaitano Tembo was just a six-year-old boy in his hometown of Kadoma, back then, still not old enough to be allowed to enrol for his Grade One studies back in the day when one needed to be, at least, seven-years-old — or with the ability to wrap your hand over your head to touch your ear on the other side — to be accepted into primary school.
He was wasn’t there, too, more than two decades later when his teammates finally came of age on the continent, with their appearance in that Champions League final in 1998, having departed months earlier to begin a South African adventure whose chapters are still being written to this day.
Now, exactly 20 years after winning his last domestic league title in 1997, he stands on the threshold of writing a special chapter to his story, by adding the CAF Confederation Cup winners’ medal to the impressive collection which football has given him.
Along the way, of course, there has been some disappointment and tragedy — none bigger than that car crash at the turn of the millennium, on his way back to, which took the life of his lovely wife and left him to deal with the scars — both physical and emotional — of that life-changing moment.
That he was coming from another bereavement, the burial of his mother which had made him drive his family home on that occasion, only amplified the pain for a man who, within a short space of time, had lost the two female pillars he had come to rely upon in his life.
“My wife meant a lot to me, she really supported me during difficult times,” he told BBC Sport. “It made me a stronger person as I had to look after our daughter and as football is my career, I couldn’t give it up.”
His little daughter survived that horror crash, providing him with the inspiration to continue fighting for her to at least get a decent life and after a four-month absence nursing a broken arm and a host of psychological scars inflicted by that tragedy, Kaitano — a tough centreback they had nicknamed the new Shadreck Ngwenya — was back in the trenches.
As if he had not been shaken to the core, by the challenges of life, as if he had not been dealt with a bitter blow by cruel fate and where lesser souls would have been destroyed for good by these cocktail of tragedies, never to find the focus to play as well as they used, Kaitano used this as a springboard to plunge into another world and like a navy seal, refused to buckle under the punishing weight of these challenges.
Instead of cursing fate and spending the rest of his life asking the Lord why this had happened to him, he celebrated the second chance he had been given and rather than moan and mourn endlessly, he decided to fight for the betterment of his life and the lives of those who looked up to him to provide a helping hand, especially his daughter.
And fought he did, with both the raw passion and qualities of a thoroughbred fighter and by the time he became part of the a special group of footballers who helped his country end 23 years of pain inflicted by repeated failure to qualify for the Nations Cup finals, as Peter Ndlovu’s right-hand man as the vice captain of that team, Kaitano had defied the odds in a way only a hybrid athlete like him could.
IT’S A MEASURE OF HIS GREATNESS EVEN MEMORY SINGLED HIM OUT FOR SPECIAL MENTION
Memory Mucherahowa, one of the greatest, if not the finest, Dynamos captain of all-time, recently put together his life story, dominated by his time at the Glamour Boys, into a very interesting autobiography entitled “Soul Of Seven Million Dreams.”
Gwenzi, as Memory was called by his teammates and fans, was the leader of that DeMbare side of the mid-to-late ‘90s in which Kaitano was one of the key players and it’s a measure of Ngwenya’s value to that side he was one of the special players singled out by the captain in his book.
“What a brilliant defender Kaitano Tembo was. With him in the heart of defence, we were assured of steely cover at the back,’’ Mucherahowa writes in his book.
“HE WAS ALSO A LEADER WHOM WE LOOKED UP TO AS HE CAPTAINED SOME GAMES BEFORE I WAS APPOINTED THE TEAM’S CAPTAIN IN 1994.
“One thing I liked about Tembo was his maturity. He was a mature guy.”
Maybe, on reflection, Memory will also realise he forgot to mention that Kaitano has always been a bastion of loyalty and that he had played all his domestic top-flight football for just one club, his beloved DeMbare, proves just that.
He also had this pedigree as a man who never wilted on the big occasion, but used it to bring out the best out of himself, usually displayed by the way he seemingly always reserved his finest performances, including even scoring a goal, in matches against their biggest city rivals CAPS United.
He was on target in that explosive Harare Derby in 1996, the defining game in that season’s race for the league championship, where a Dynamos win would have changed everything, but a late equaliser by Mphumelelo Dzowa from a free-kick meant that honours were spoiled and on the basis of performance throughout the season and player quality man-for-man, the best team that year — CAPS United — rightly won the championship.
But, being the gritty fighters that they were, those Glamour Boys quickly fought back and retrieved the championship from the biggest rivals the following season as Kaitano and his teammates returned to familiar surroundings as the champions of domestic football.
It’s his value for loyalty that has seen him remain an employee of South African side SuperSport United since arriving at that club in 1999 after a short stint from the defunct Seven Stars who had plucked him away from here for his adventure in Mzansi.
God willing, in about 14 months’ time, Ngwenya will be celebrating 20 years of uninterrupted service for SuperSport United whose blue-and-white colours have probably provided the comfort and a reminder of the Glamour Boys he left back home.
What Memory also didn’t mention is that there fewer nicer guys like Kaitano, both in this game and in this life, and while his physical built — the dark features and muscular frame gives a picture of a welterweight boxing beast — it hides the soul of a dove, a good man who will never injure even a church mouse and who loves his fellow human beings with all the love one can expect from a man.
Never one to brag about how God has blessed him to transform himself from a poor boy from Rimuka in Kadoma into a man now living his dream and with enough financial resources to get just about everything he wants — thanks to a combination of his long service to the game in South Africa and a good brain that helped him understand the value of investment in things that matter — Kaitano finds joy and comfort in living a very private life.
You will never see him posting the picture of the mansion he has built on his Facebook page or the picture of the houses he has bought and built on his Twitter pages and, on the occasion he comes on social media, it is to either wish his Warriors good luck or to celebrate the success of his beloved SuperSport United.
You will never see him post pictures of posh cars he has acquired or driven in his adventure in South Africa on social media or the companies he now runs where he employs a sizeable number of his countrymen and women because to him, that is tantamount to showing off — a culture of bragging that won’t add value to his life.
And where many in his position would have sulked, after being overlooked repeatedly for the job of head coach at SuperSport United despite showing, now and again, he has the qualities to handle that responsibility, he has just embraced his fate and continued to do what he knows best — simply work for the good of his employers in whatever role they give him.
He could have complained he was being overlooked, simply because of the colour of his skin — which is probably only lighter in its shade of darkness than that of Young Warriors manager Patrick Mutesva and just a rung below someone like Mafero Mafero social club’s Douglas Chigwida and mine, something we collectively derive a lot of pride in as African boys — at a club that has a history of hiring white head coaches, and in a country still reeling from the horror of apartheid, there are many who would have bought his story.
A COACHING GENIUS IN THE MAKING WHO HAS BEEN LEARNING FROM THE VERY BEST
Instead, Kaitano Tembo has simply kept a cool head, just content to work as ordered and never to aim too high, and too fast, ending up destroying a reputation he has been working hard to build since he plunged into coaching after a recurrent knee injury finally drew the curtain on his playing career.
Even when the SuperSport United bosses hired some questionable coaches like Calvin Johnson where giving the job to Kaitano would have been a better decision, the Zimbabwean didn’t cry foul and continued to give his all in whatever capacity the club wanted.
Rather than waste his time on things he can’t control, he chose to take full advantage of the extended apprenticeship his bosses have given him, to learn as much as he can from the various coaches who have been brought to head the technical department in all these years.
Pitso Mosimane spent seven seasons at the club before leaving to become the Bafana Bafana coach and an African champion with Mamelodi Sundowns, Gavin Hunt won three straight league titles at the club before leaving to become a champion at Bidvest Wits, Stuart Baxter also came and left to become the Bafana Bafana coach while now Kaitano is under Eric Tinkler.
And Tinkler believes there is something special about Kaitano.
“I think he has a great future ahead of him as a coach‚ he has a good head on his shoulders‚ he understands the game very well and he did extremely well with the team against TP Mazembe and Horoya AC when Stuart Baxter was not here‚” Tinkler said of Tembo
“I definitely see a bright future for him in the game and I am looking forward to working with him . . .”
There are some who will see Kaitano as someone who lacks ambition and those who accuse him of being a coward just enjoying the comforts of being part of the backroom staff where his coaching skills will never be tested against the very best and who doesn’t want to take the responsibility that comes with being the main man.
They could have a point because, at 47, Kaitano Tembo has already come of age in a career that is now being dominated, more and more, by the young coaches as the era of the old dinosaurs who used to rule the roost comes to an end.
After all, Pep Guardiola is a year younger than Kaitano and has been on the frontline as the head coach of bigger teams for years now, winning three La Liga titles with Barcelona, two Copa del Rey titles, three Super Cups, two Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups with the Catalan giants.
He has also won three German Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, a German Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup and is now taking charge of a Manchester City revolution that could possibly make the club the best in Europe and the world soon which, coming from someone like me as a Manchester United fan, carries its weight in gold.
Steve Komphela is just three years older than Kaitano, but he has taken the challenge of coaching South Africa’s biggest football club while Ian Gorowa, who is a year younger than Kaitano, has already taken charge of Mamelodi Sundowns — a far bigger club than SuperSport United — and the Warriors.
But those who support Kaitano, who include me, see a patient vulture who knows exactly what he is doing and, given his close brush with death in that tragic accident at the turn of the millennium, views every new day as a blessing and isn’t in a rush to destroy everything he has built in the second chance the Lord gave him that night when his car crashed.
Where we view him as someone born in 1970, he probably sees himself as born again in 2000 and has only been in the trenches of his new life in the past 17 years and still has a lot of time on his side to eventually stand on his own as a coach one day.
Those who doubt he can really succeed as the main man, away from the shadows of being an assistant, just need to look at how he inspired SuperSport United — after being given caretaker charge of the team — in that 2-2 draw against TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi in the CAF Confederation Cup this year.
Any coach who can get a draw in Lubumbashi against Mazembe in either the CAF Champions League or Confederation Cup deserves respect because, as many will testify, it’s a venue that has turned into a slaughter chamber for various visiting coaches.
Now, Kaitano Tembo stands on the threshold of helping SuperSport United win the Confederation Cup — should they beat Mazembe in the final — but whatever the result in that showdown, there is no doubt that what we are seeing, or probably not choosing to see, is the making of a coaching genius who could one day even take charge of the Warriors and become a success story.
If that happens, it couldn’t happen to a nicer chap.
Some people are born great, like the immortal Peter Ndlovu, some have greatness thrust upon them while some — like Kaitano Tembo — have to achieve greatness.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Text Feedback — 0772545199, WhatsApp Messenger — 0772545199. Email — [email protected], Skype — sharuko58. Chat with me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Chakariboy or read my material in The Southern Times or on www.sportszone.co.zw. You can also interact with me on the informative ZBC weekly television football magazine programme, Game Plan, where I join the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande every Monday night at 21.30pm.