Sharuko On Saturday
MY giant old man in goals, big John Walker in the heart of defence, the irresistible Lawrence Mbewe as the heartbeat of the midfield and the ageless Bibo leading the attack.
That was our team.
And, that was 45 years ago.
I was only five and had already been taught to sing the alphabet by my old man.
As laughable as it sounds today, when our kids can speak English long before Grade One, it wasn’t usually the case back then.
Especially where we lived, on the goldfields paradise called Chakari, back in the ‘70s.
Every Sunday he would take me to church, first, as precious cargo on his bicycle, then, after he acquired a battered Land Rover, as his back seat passenger.
For all the love for his drinking, and his smoking, he believed in God which, in itself, was a virtue and the Dutch Reformed Church was his temple, every Sunday, where he would reconnect with his spiritual Father.
On bended knees, he would ask for forgiveness, for the sins he had committed, for the protection of his family, for a shower of blessings and for more life.
And, every other Sunday, he would take me to watch him play football for our hometown team, Falcon Gold.
Back in those days of my innocence, to follow into my old man’s footsteps, by one day becoming our home team’s goalkeeper, was the Mother of All Dreams.
Of course, it’s a dream that didn’t come true, better players like Chakumanda (the one from the graves) came through and became my old man’s successor, as trusted custodians of our team’s goal, over the passage of time.
But, in those childhood adventures, either on that bicycle or in that battered Land Rover, a beautiful romance, between football and me, was born.
My old man hasn’t been around, 20 years and counting, since he was called to join his good wife, his lovely kids, his old man, his mother and so many of our family tree members, who passed away along the way.
I’m not sure what he had in mind, when he repeatedly taught me to sing the alphabet, and gave me all those pre-school English lessons.
He took his secret, about why he didn’t feel inclined to teach me mathematics, and its complex web of numbers, into his final resting place.
For, I wasn’t there that morning, when he passed away and, so, like British singer Mike Rutherford, of the group “Mike and the Mechanics,” I didn’t get to ask him, all that I wanted to say.
But, what isn’t questionable is that, just like any father, he had great expectations his boy would grow up to write a success story, in whatever he ended up doing, with his life.
And, those English lessons on that blackboard at home, and those weekend trips, either to the stadium to watch him play football, or to the church for us to pray, have ended up shaping my life.
Sometimes, I see him in my dreams, the two of us, in our little dining room at House Number 82, M4 Section, back home in Chakari, his beer in one hand, his cigarette on the other.
The nights we used to share, father and son, when everyone else had long retired to bed.
Especially, those days when I would come back home during school holidays, to tell him about Charles Dickens, and his classic novel, “Great Expectations.”
His interest in my English studies remained as strong as ever, even though I was now in Form Five.
And, he loved the story of Phillip Pirrip, the dominant character in that vintage Dickens novel, which was one of my A-Level study books and, for days, I would tell his story in bits and pieces.
“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer, or more explicit, than Pip,” I would recite the opening paragraph of that novel to my old man.
“So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”
THE PIPI OF FIO AND A FATHER, AND COMMUNITY, WHICH HAD GREAT EXPECTATIONS
By the time I began my journey at this newspaper, the people of Highfield now had their own beloved Pipi, of course, different from Dickens’ Pip but someone who also carried the same weight of Great Expectations.
Until five years ago, he also had a father, as dedicated to the future of his sons as my old man was, a proud and tireless man who spent endless hours trying to develop the next generation of football stars from Highfield, and the surrounding areas.
His name was Onias Kadewere.
I first met him, during the course of duty, and was swept away by his dedication to football, charmed by his expert knowledge of the game and humbled by his respect for others.
A special bond developed and, over the course of time, he would be a regular visitor to our Sports Desk to tell me about his project, the excitement triggered by the kids he was working with.
And, why we should never abandon supporting grassroots coaches like him.
Remarkably, never, at any stage, did he talk about his boys, themselves as good, if not better, a crop of footballers, than many of those, from other households, who were under his expert wing.
But, his boys who were already making waves in Highfield because, long before the youngest of them, Tino, exploded on the scene, to start an adventure that would take him to Europe, there was Prosper, Prince and Pardon.
Although he didn’t tell me about any of them, I have no doubt at all that, just like my old man, he also had Great Expectations for his battery of boys.
And, if you talk to the people of Highfield, they will tell you Prince Kadewere, the one they called “Pipi,’’ was, indeed, their Special One.
A gem of a budding footballer, whose immense talent deserved far much more, in terms of both stage and success, than what it eventually gave him.
And, in these days of social media, Twitter has been buzzing and, predictably, some of the comparisons have largely been way over the top.
“He was our Messi at Mbizi in the 90s,’’ said Bright Wafa
And, Mr Bhule, agrees.
“Anyone from Highfield will undoubtedly admit there is no greater superstar that came from Fio than Prince ‘Pipi’ Kadewere,’’ wrote Mr Bhule.
“At Mbizi and Fio One he was the first sports celebrity we knew.’’
Chambo Chirenje said, although Pipi didn’t touch the stars his talent had promised, and certainly deserved, he would remain one of their all-time football heroes.
“Growing up in the ghetto, there is a special group of players, that never made it ‘big’, but in the hearts of anyone, who knows football, knows that they had it all,’’ said Chambo.
“Pipi, you join legends as Spanner Wilson Afiki, Socrates and many more, you wrote your story, we’ll never forget.’’
Yusuf Sabiti in Chegutu, Disco Masaraure in Chitungwiza, Winter Moon in Kadoma, Boniface Chiseko at Cam and Motor Mine, Mutambarika Chirwa in Chakari, Austin Chapani in Mazowe, every community has its own football folk heroes.
They might never have really made it into the big time, for one reason or another but, if you go there, and talk about extraordinary football talents, those names will always feature prominently.
Highfield is a community that knows a genuine football star, when they see one, because, over the years, they have been spoilt for choice by a production machine which has given them countless of those superstars.
For goodness sake, they saw Shacky Tauro, probably the greatest goal-scorer of all-time to come out of this country, fine-tune his skills at Rusvingo Primary School and the Zororo Youth Centre in Highfield.
So, when this community tells you that Pipi was, indeed, special, you have to listen.
Even his brother, Tino, the one who eventually broke the family barriers and made it onto the big stage, including gatecrashing into the French Ligue 1, agrees.
“Growing up, I used to tell myself that I want to be better than them (his brothers),’’ Tino once told this newspaper. “People used to tell me my brother Prince was a star, so I had to surpass that.’’
PIPI DIDN’T MAKE THE BIG STAGE BUT IT IS WHAT IT IS
On Wednesday, Pipi, the football prodigy whose amazing talent charmed his special community, and transformed him into their teenage sweetheart, died.
He was just 40.
The very age they told him, his life was supposed to begin.
His dreams, of becoming the football superstar which his raw talent had promised him, and which fate denied him, had long been shattered by an injury at a crucial stage of his development.
But, just like Duncan Edwards, who had to die at 21, after that plane crash which devoured the soul of the Busby Babes in Munich, in 1958, Pipi had to leave us wondering what he could possibly have been.
They still talk about Gianluigi Lentini in Italy, who was just 22 when he signed for AC Milan from Torino for a then world record fee of £13 million in 1992.
A year later, driving home from pre-season training, he was involved in a car accident that left him witch a fractured skull and battling for his life in a coma.
He won the battle for his life but he was never the same footballer.
But, his legacy, remains intact in Turin, where he was the boy wonder and, maybe, some stars don’t really need the big stage, for their talent to be fully appreciated.
They are like shooting stars, one moment the power of their blinding light is flashing across the sky then, the next moment, it’s all over.
And, for Pipi, I can try and sing my version of, “Shooting Star,’’ one of music’s all-time finest songs.
“Pipi was just a schoolboy, when he first rose to fame
Mbizi primary, I think it was and, from there, life was never the same
Got himself a football, he used to play all day and night
Now, he was in a junior team and everything seemed all right
“Don’t you know?
“Pipi told his mamma, hey, mamma I would be going away
I’m gonna hit the big time, I’m gonna be a big football star one day
Mamma came to the door with a teardrop in her eye
Pipi said don’t cry mamma, just smile and watch me fly
“Don’t you know?
“Pipi played a game for his school and he went straight to number one
Suddenly everyone just loved to watch him play and having a lot of fun
Watching the world go by, surprising it went on so fast
Pipi looked around him and said, ‘well, I’m about to hit the big time at last’
“Don’t you know?
Don’t you know that you’re a shooting star?
Don’t you know?
And all of Highfield will keep loving you
Just as long As long as you are
“Pipi died on Wednesday morning, he died in a bed
A bottle of medicine, a container of some tablets by his head
Pipi’s life passed by like a warm summer day
And, if you can close your eyes, you will probably still see him play
“Don’t you know, don’t you know?
Don’t you know that you were a shooting star?
Don’t you know?’’
The lyrics are borrowed from the hit song “Shooting Star,” by Bad Company.
The song was released in 1975, five years after I was born, when my old man first took me to watch him play.
Five years later, Pipi was born and, this whole football initiation, which my old man had taken me through, would be repeated by another father and son in Highfield.
This game would eventually unite us, along the way, sharing its good, and bad times, until, of course, as happens in this garden of the living, one of us was taken away.
Once again, we are shedding tears, this time for Pipi, all those Great Expectations, just blown away like that.
But, that’s the way it is.
It’s the gift of memory, and that’s all we are left clutching to, and if the people of Highfield pause for a moment, close their eyes and drift back into the past, they also can probably still see their beloved Pipi playing.
And, they know, too, he had a good father, a good family and, more importantly, he was a good guy and an excellent footballer.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears,’’ Dickens’ Pip told us in Great Expectations. “For they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.’’
Pip could have been talking about us today as we say goodbye to our Pipi.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!
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You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the ZBC television magazine programme, “Game Plan”