a movement that would grow into regional dominance and continental recognition.
Evelyn, who is Madinda, Adam and Peter’s sister, together with Bridget Zimunya, the sister to former Highlanders’ goalkeeper Sydney, were the pioneers of women’s football.
Evelyn is now settled in the United Kingdom, but back home the journey continues.
This week The Herald caught up with Mugadza, who is now the head coach of the Mighty Warriors and went down memory lane. Interestingly, the former Mighty Warriors captain also comes from a footballing family and was also lured to the sport by her family’s achievements on the pitch.
“My father, Partrobes Mugadza, inspired me to play women’s soccer. He was a former player at Mashonaland United and Rusape United. And out of fun I just felt I should try playing soccer.
“Everyone in my family played soccer and my brother Abisha was one of the first players to play for Black Mambas while Abednigo and Muzondiwa (former Zimbabwe Saints goalkeeper) were also active.
“I also began my career at Zim Saints before moving to Highlanders early in the ‘90s and ended my career at New Orleans and started coaching courses in 2000.
“Women’s football here began around 1988 with teams like Tabex Queens, Payline Queens, Dynamos, Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints Queens.
“The teams used to play as curtain raisers to men’s teams. Those players were talented but women’s football wasn’t taken seriously then. And it is unfortunate that the team was only confined to playing local matches,” said Mugadza.
The former defender, a Level 4 coaching certificate holder, recalls that back then football had sponsors.
“We had a national league running with companies such as Tabex and Payline and we would play in Cup games like Payline and Softex Trophy.
“Zimbabwe’s first international match was when we travelled to South Africa to play in the Nelson Mandela Trophy Invitational at FNB Stadium in 1995.
“We played Banyana Banyana as curtain raisers to the game between Bafana and Holland and we won 5-2. The following year South Africa was invited here to play against New Orleans in the Care Cup on Independence Day and Winnie Madikizela Mandela was the guest of honour.
“We started participating in the Caf Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in 2000 and won 11-0 at Rufaro in the first leg and won 4-2 away to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations which was held in South Africa the same year,” said Mugadza.
At the tournament, Zimbabwe reached the semi-finals. That fourth position remains the best ever position for the Mighty Warriors in Caf tournaments.
But who will forget the skillful Ruth Banda, who hung her boots when she got married to Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Esrom Nyandoro, Sithetheliwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda, now assistant coach to Nomsa “Boyz” Moyo at New Orleans?
Goalkeeper Daisy Mukwena, the late Thenjiwe Maguhudza, Tarisai Marufu, the late Yesmore Mutero, Fungai Nyamutukwa and Pretty Phiri? This crop went on qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002 in Nigeria and the 2004 edition in South Africa, and on both occasions finished sixth. They were also invited to play at the All-Africa Games when the women’s version was introduced at the tournament in Nigeria in 2003.
But somehow and somewhere the plot was lost. As marriages took their toll, giving birth weighed in and age caught up with the players, women’s football slumped.
Mugadza is married to Peter Gonyora whom she describes as a “supportive husband in my chosen career and is always there for me. The national team last competed in competitive football in 2007. Then Moses Chunga was the head coach and I was his assistant.
“Then there was a lapse in women’s football and the team wasn’t registered to participate in any tournaments and only regrouped late last year.
“When we were missing in action our neighbours South Africa were getting stronger by the day and the difference between them and us widened. During our days, playing against veteran players such as Portia Modise and Veronica Phewa, we would match them blow for blow,” said Mugadza. Indeed things have changed and South Africa and Cameroon will be the two African nations representing the continent at 2012 London Olympics.
However, the 42-year-old gaffer believes women’s football is yet to surpass the benchmark set by the old guard.
“There is need to develop football from the grassroots. We need to have all the provinces playing football. Recently I was in Norton for the Mashonaland West women’s football tournament and I was impressed,” said Mugadza.
“The province has eight teams running, and the youngest player there was 11 years.
“So if something like this is spread throughout the country we won’t cry as a nation that there is no nurturing of talent.
“National Associations of Primary Schools is not really visible while National Associations of Secondary Schools have been trying.
“If you look at the senior team, there is nothing below and the Under-17 and the Under-20 have not been set in place to participate at junior tournaments, even the Fifa World Cup,” said Mugadza.
The Women’s Football league board will be hoping to use the Fifa Women’s Com-Unity seminar that starts on Tuesday in the capital to take their football to another level.