Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
THIRTY years ago, Moses Chunga was presented with a chance to break into English football, to play for a Nottingham Forest side that was one of Europe’s best.Six years earlier, Forest had won their second European Cup in succession, beating German side Hamburg, who had thrashed Real Madrid 5-1 in the first leg of their semi-final, 1-0 in the final in Madrid.
The previous season, Forest had also won the European Cup after beating Swedish side Malmo 1-0 in the final in Munich.
In December 1986, a then 21-year-old Chunga arrived for trials with Nottingham Forest who were under the guidance of the club’s legendary coach Brian Clough.
Chunga impressed Clough with his close ball control and sharp shooting in practice, but like his colleagues, incurred the great man’s wrath.
During one training session, when Clough characteristically took his title-chasing squad down a peg or two following a scintillating victory at Tottenham Hotspur, Chunga came in for his share of criticism.
After choosing to chip over the goalkeeper instead of passing to a colleague, Chunga’s joy at seeing the net bulge with his long-range effort was greeted with a roar, but sadly for him, it was one monumental disapproval.
“Son”, stormed Clough, “don’t try to run before you can walk. When I say ‘PASS’, I mean just that — PASS.”
And, with that, went his chances of playing in England.
This week, Chunga — the first Zimbabwean footballer to make it into Europe after independence — turned 51 and naturally, that incident at the Forest training ground came up for discussion.
“That’s the price you pay for being popular. People in pubs always look for stories and up to now they will tell you that even when I was in UK or Belgium, I was asked how the weather is and my answer was ‘check check, scattered clouds in the morning, cool later and with chances of rain’ like those people who present the weather forecast on television,” said Chunga.
“I have to live with it because I don’t know anyone who was closer to all that when it was happening and is from Zimbabwe, so you can see that they are cooked up stories.”
Arnold Raphael, the then Zimpapers London-based correspondent, is the one who went to that City ground training session and documented the incident.
Time has moved on and Chunga isn’t that 21-year-old footballer who had the world at his feet.
He is now a family man.
“I am a great cook, I always prepare food for my family,” he said this week.
“Even when my mother-in-law is around, I still cook for the whole family. In Shona they say ‘akadyiswa’, but it’s not, a wife should even brag that her husband can cook.”
Born in a family of six, Chunga and his siblings grew up in a compound at Lyton Industrial Area near Harare’s high-density suburb of Mufakose, where his father was a tobacco packer.
“My late mother taught me to stand up for myself and I got fond of culinary skills at a tender age, as I would always come home late from playing football which meant I would have to prepare my own meals.
“I was born in a family of six, but I lost an elder sister and a brother as well as parents. My brothers Kembo and Dickson and sister Lucia are my surviving siblings,” said Chunga.
Although, he came from a family with a football history, Bambo doesn’t see any of his children carrying his name forward.
His first born, Moses Martin, who was born in 1988 in Belgium, a week that Chunga’s mother, Esnath died is a pilot.
“He didn’t choose his father’s trade and he chose to be a pilot, but after getting the licence, he is now a film producer, producing South African soap operas.
“I have five kids. The second born, Rutendo, did a degree in Economics at the University of Zimbabwe.
“Madalitso is in Form 3 at Prince Edward, even though he plays soccer here and there, he is more into computers. Limbikani is in Form 1 at Vainona High and Odabwitsa is in pre-school.
“Actually, I don’t want to push my children to do what I do because we are different individuals,” said Chunga.
The coach, usually viewed by players as a strict gaffer, is a loving father at home.
“My kids have their own ways of doing their things, which is very important, but as a parent you still have to maintain discipline.
“Obviously, at home it is different to coaching. But I always tell them my success is not their success, they have to choose what they want in life and success doesn’t come on a silver platter.
“For you to make it in life you have to listen because my mother used to say even a fool has got a story to tell.”
Ironically on his birthday, October 17, he received news from Belgium that the man who took him to E. Aalst also passed away on the same day.
“I want to thank the Lord and the people around me. I have done everything in life, what I want now is to see my grandchildren. I am yet to have any grandchildren,” said Chunga.
He is married to Lorraine Tafira and they have been together for 16 years.
“We are now going for the 17th year and she remains a pillar of strength in my life. She has been a shining beacon,” says Chunga.
He was previously married to Hannah Hove, the mother of his first son Moses.
He also shed a little bit of light on a white lady he brought home on his return from Belgium.
“She played a part in my life, we were together for some years, but that’s all. Let’s just say let sleeping dogs lie.”
Chunga says he has now committed his future to his family.
“I have enjoyed life, I have seen it all and I am very grateful,” he says.
“I think I get satisfaction from being the first player to play outside the country in the post-Independence era.
“I also feel honoured that I still hold the title for the best top goalscorer award. It has been 30 years since I scored 46 league goals in 1986 and the record is yet to be broken.
“I was a prolific striker, we are talking of braces and hat-tricks. I remember in one of the games I scored four goals. I think it was only in two games that I played and was not on target that season.”
He doesn’t want to compare himself to other players.
“People will say I am arrogant if I rate myself against the other soccer greats, but I believe my record speaks for itself,” he says.
“I scored (from) corner kicks, free-kicks and I did things which other players didn’t do. I was an intelligent player on the field, an all-rounder, utility player because I could play all the positions expect goalkeeping.
“I started as an outside midfielder and became what they used to call linkman-cum-striker. I could read my teammates and opposition very well.
“I was that special. I did admire other players like Alexander Maseko, the late Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, Joel Shambo (late), Stanley ‘Sinyo’ Ndunduma (late), Stanford ‘Stix’ Mtizwa, Japhet M’parutsa and Boy Ndlovu, he was one hell of a player.
“It was very interesting in each team we had players who would light up the occasion.
“If it was wasn’t for injuries I could have gone far and joined other (big) clubs in Europe.
“And then there was the issue of price tag, my club was asking for too much money. But the injuries really affected me because when I got operated on the knee it became difficult because a muscle chunk was taken from the side and I lost about a year, it was seven months without football.”
Does he have any regrets?
“I don’t have any regrets in life. I am looking forward to the next 50 years. The past let’s live it in the past. It would be an insult to the Almighty to regret anything. I am happy with what He has given me and I am very grateful.
“Just to reach this age is a privilege which has been denied to many. If you look at my generation, most of them are no longer here, they passed on.
“But by God’s grace I am still here. I want to thank God for the bundles of joy which he has given me and ask for more blessings.”
And Chunga reveals a player in the current generation whom he feels could come closer to him.
“I think Tino Kadewere, he is a good player.”