MUDZUDZUGrace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
WE have seen countless former footballers who have fallen on hard times and heard numerous stories of those who failed to handle their fame.

It’s something that is not confined to Zimbabwe football, but can be found everywhere in the world.

However, stories of those who made it are rarely told.

One such former footballer is Simon Mudzuzu, who starred at Black Aces and for the national team as a tough-tackling defender.

Long after he hung up his boots, Mudzudzu is living a good life in Harare’s affluent suburb of Glen Lorne.

This week we caught up with him.

Mudzudzu and his wife Tsitsi welcomed us into their plush home, where they are staying alone, as four of their kids are now based in the United States and United Kingdom.

Only one of their kids is based here.

Mudzudzu, who once formed a twin centre-back partnership with football icon Sunday Chidzambwa at Metal Box in the 1970s, took us down memory lane.

And he told us how legendary goalkeeper Posani Sibanda missed the ticket to England to be an understudy to Bruce Grobbelaar.

Mudzudzu believes he owes everything to his loyalty to the company Metal Box, where he continued working long after he had quit the game, and rose through the ranks to break into management.

He bought his Glen Lorne house when he was just 32 and is proud he sent his kids to some of the best schools in the country.

Mudzudzu only left Metal Box in 2014.

“(The late) David Muchineripi and other football players quit their jobs at Metal Box to pursue these coaching programmes (at Chibuku) and I had advanced myself when I was still playing, attaining supervisory qualifications at Harare Polytechnic with City and Guilds,” he said.

But how did it all begin?

Well, it started at Chengu Primary School in Highfield, which had been converted into a sports facility and kids from these facilities in the townships such as Harare (now Mbare), Mufakose and Highfield would then compete against each other.

Mudzudzu found himself at Metal Box in 1972 after playing for a number of junior teams at Tornadoes and Arcadia United.

“I started playing senior football in 1972 when I joined Metal Box together with other players like Oliver Kateya (late), his brother Shadreck, who is now in the United Kingdom, Peter Manyara and Sunday (Marimo) Chidzambwa.

“The following year the team was promoted into the First Division and in our first year we won the championship.

“We did very well that year myself and Chidzambwa, we were the centrebacks, Mike Chidzero was the goalkeeper, Peter Manyara was the leftback, Arnold Madzikatire rightback, Chita Antonio and Oliver Kateya were the strikers and July Sharara was also in that team.

“Our coach was Allan Davie.

“We played until 1975 when Sunday and myself moved to Chibuku, and I remember I broke the transfer record then when I was bought for $3 000 (Rhodesian dollars) which was a lot of money then.

“I think Sunday was first bought for $2 000 and then they came back for me.

“We played until the club folded. At Chibuku Shumba, we had the likes of Fresh Chamarenga, William Billy Sherman.

“The team folded in 1976 but the players were kept together and decided to acquire the franchise of Metal Box and the soccer leader then, John Madzima (late), agreed and in 1977 the whole group of the players formed Black Aces.

“Sunday joined Dynamos.”

Mudzudzu says at Aces he was joined by such players like Daniel “DC” Chikanda, who came from Salisbury Sables following the collapse of that club.

“That year we won the Chibuku Trophy, the Nyore Nyore Shield and we finished in the top three. We did very well in 1977.

“People like Majid Khan, our chairman, were influential in the setting up of Black Aces as he was a staunch supporter at Chibuku and poured in a lot of money in the formation of Black Aces.

“I played for Black Aces until 1981 when I suffered a knee injury,” he said.

The former defender says he remembers when Grobbelaar was scouted by Liverpool coaches during a tournament in South Africa.

“I remember Posani Sibanda was first-choice keeper at Chibuku and Bruce Grobbelaar was the reserve keeper. We went to South Africa to play Orlando Pirates as the two countries were under sanctions.

“I remember playing against Jomo Sono in that Orlando Pirates team. We didn’t know our coach Jack Meagher wanted to sell Bruce and Liverpool scouts were there to see him.

“Meagher put Bruce in the first team and we refused to come out of the dressing room until it was resolved that each goalkeeper would keep goal for one half.

“Posani could have played for any team in the world but he was not smart and the coach would always complain about it.

“Meagher came from Hwange as he was brought to Zimbabwe by Hwange Company from the English Second Division. So when he came to Chibuku he brought goalkeeper Posani with him.

“He was a good goalkeeper who could have walked into any team in the world,” said Mudzudzu.

Mudzudzu, who when he is not watching his favourite team Arsenal, will be playing squash at a local sports club, also had wise words to give to the current players.

“I still follow local soccer and a lot has been happening,” he said.

“Most football players don’t want to work (hard). They want easy living. But at the end of the day they forget that a football career is very short.

“I know as a footballer, you will be famous, girls will be approaching you and at times you get stupid.

“A lot of people forget there is life after football. You get preference as a player most of the times but rather than using that to one’s advantage, players end up abusing that.

“That glamour makes a lot of people lose sight of the more important things in life.

“People laughed when we bought this house after independence and said, ‘Who will visit you there? Back then I was staying at a company house in Glen Norah, but I knew I needed a vision and not just look at the present.”

The 65-year-old believes his wife has been his pillar of strength.

“My wife supported me and I wanted to buy a house in Mabelreign but she said, ‘Let’s go for the northern suburbs’.

“She would always push me because I wasn’t a saint, I was also a football player and bound at times to make mistakes like others were making.

“I stayed away from alcohol and smoking and I have never touched those things in my life.”

Mudzudzu still fondly remembers the days at Metal Box.

And he said the late Paul Tsumbe was a tough player to deal with.

“He (Tsumbe) was full of trickery in the box. He came from Bulawayo Sables and every time we faced him he would score against us.

“Gibson Homela was a good player but we knew he was short-tempered and we would tackle him hard and we knew he would lose it.

“My partnership at Aces with the late Roderick Muganhiri was a different combination altogether. He was skilful and was good with his head.

“I had a fulfilling career and I remember my life in football with joy,” said Mudzudzu.

At Aces, Mudzudzu also played with a number of gifted players such as Benard “Machipisa” Dzingayi, Daniel Chikanda, Clever Hunda, Wonder Chisetera, Charles Gwazo, Bernard Kuwana, Byron “Piri Piri” Manuel, Booker Muchenu and Alwyn Hagen.

Popularly known as “Shaisa Mufaro”, Black Aces used Gwanzura as their home ground and had a legion of supporters from Highfield and the surrounding areas of Glen Norah, Mbare and Mufakose.

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