Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZAMBIAN millionaire businessman Moses Mubanga is turning himself into the new Kaizer Motaung, building his football club around a host of Zimbabwean footballers, with midfield enforcer Devon Chafa being the latest to be recruited into his stable, while CAPS United striker John Zhuwawu is on his radar.
Mubanga is the founder and chief executive of Buildcon, one of the biggest Zambian-owned and fastest growing firms with interests in construction and engineering, and owns ambitious Zambian top-flight side Buildcon FC who are in Zimbabwe on a pre-season tour.
Buildcon, a company based in Ndola, also has interests in real estate and last year revenue generated by the company was estimated to have gone past $160 million, making the football-mad Mubanga quite a wealthy businessman in Zambia.
His financial muscle has seen him wooing players from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Nigeria and Uganda and also investing in the services of coaches from Spain and Italy in a bid to turn Buildcon FC into giants in Zambian football.
Last year, Mubanga recruited Spanish coach Hicham Jadrane Chazouani, who is of Moroccan descent, and holds a UEFA Pro Licence — the highest football coaching badge in Europe — and who previously coached giants like Raja Casablanca, Faith Union Sport and in Oman.
Chazouani’s contract was not renewed when it ended last year, after Buildcon FC finished ninth in the championship race, 19 points behind eventual champions Zesco United who are their city rivals given they are also based in Ndola.
And this year, Mubanga, whose team is in Zimbabwe on a two-week pre-season tour in which it will play local sides, has recruited Italian gaffer Arena Guglielmo to take charge of his team which is being revamped with a number of new players being brought into the fold. Midfielder Chafa, whose game has undergone a revival in the past year in which he emerged as one of the Soccer Stars of the Year and played a starring role for CAPS United, is the latest player to be recruited by the Zambian club.
Chafa was snapped on a two-year deal by the Zambians on Saturday, just hours before he had promised CAPS United president Farai Jere that he would sign a new deal with the Green Machine that very day.
Having been paid some of his outstanding dues that morning, in a deal which would have seen him putting pen to paper on a new deal with CAPS United, where he has been training since his return from trying his luck in Egypt, Chafa could not resist the offer that was dangled by the Zambians.
“Devon was out of contract with us and we were negotiating a new deal and everything appeared on course on Saturday that he would put pen to paper that day until we heard he had decided to join the Zambian team,’’ Jere told The Herald.
“We wish him all the best and as much as we would have loved to keep him, because he has developed into one of the best players in the country today, we could not pin him to a new deal and he decided to join the Zambian club.
“The challenge is on those who are still around to fill his big shoes and we believe that we have some good players who will now be given the opportunity to show the coach they can do as well as we hope they can.’’ Chafa is the fourth Zimbabwean footballer to join the Zambian side in the past few months after they flexed their financial muscles to woo goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva from the South African Premiership while also signing Patson Jaure from Ngezi Platinum and Nqobizita Masuku from FC Platinum.
Buildcon FC owner Mubanga appears to have been charmed by the Zimbabwean football talent amid reports he is also eyeing CAPS United striker John Zhuwawu, whose last-minute bid to join South African Premiership side Maritzburg United collapsed.
He seems to have borrowed a leaf from Kazier Motaung’s success model after the Johannesburg businessman invested in a number of Zimbabwean players, including Willard Katsande and Knowledge Musona in recent years, for his Kaizer Chiefs football project
Warriors defender Teenage Hadebe has also established himself as a regular in the Amakhosi, who have retained winger Edmore Chirambadare, while signing divorce papers with forward Michelle Katsvairo.
The immortal Ebson “Sugar’’Muguyo blazed the trail in the ‘70s and since then a number of Zimbabweans — Rabson Muchichwa, Ovidy Karuru, Matthew Rusike, Kingston Nkhatha, Lincoln Zvasiya, Jimmy Jambo, Thomas Sweswe, Abbas Amidu, Tinashe Nengomasha and Onismor Bhasera — have played for Chiefs.
Buildcon FC were promoted into the Zambian top-flight league last year and club president Mubanga, who is also the chief executive and founder of Buildcon Investments, had to deal with reports in that country the club was owned by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote of Nigeria.
“We know nothing about Dangote as earlier said, I own and sponsor the team through my construction company called Buildcon Investments,’’ he told soka25east.com. Absolutely no connection at all with Dangote.’’ Buildcon Investments employ more than 800 people and are the company who won the tender for the construction of the Chingola/Solwezi road in Zambia.
Mubanga’s team usually had 95 percent of foreign players in their team during their debut season in the Zambian top-flight league last year and Mubanga says talent, rather than nationality, will determine who plays for his team this year as they bid to win the league title.
“We all recall that there was a lot of noise in terms of the composition of the team and people had a lot of different views about the constituents, or the members of the Buildcon FC team,” Mubanga told the Zambian media in a briefing in Ndola earlier this month. I think one of the most important things that came out was that we were not paying attention to the local players.
“But we did explain that when we started, very few local players had the confidence in the team, but at the end of the 2017 season, we have definitely upped our profile and are more attractive.
“We have now seen a lot of players attracted to join us and therefore the premonition that Buildcon does not want to bring Zambian players is something that is changing slowly. We have done better this year, but we still maintain the same philosophy that the most important thing is your performance and not where you are coming from.
“So in other words, what we are trying to say is that we have taken an initiative of bringing in more Zambians. But being a Zambian in the team doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to play. You need to work hard and compete with everybody. If we want to be champions at the end of 2018, we must start acting like one now and we must start talking like champions for 2018. The journey starts now.’’