THERE was a time when Poland used to be the home for some of Zimbabwe’s finest footballers.
Norman Mapeza, Lloyd Chitembwe, George Nechironga, John Phiri, Takesure Chinyama, Clement Matawu, Stewart Murisa and the late Usman Misi all had stints in the European country.
All these deals were facilitated by Polish coach Wieslaw Grabowski.
While there has been a significant decline in the number of Zimbabwean footballers plying their trade in Poland, some female rugby stars, from this country, are now playing in that country.
Debbie Enia Mutebuka, a law student, and Debra Tariro Teterai, who is studying nursing, are playing for AZS AWF Warszawa, a Division Two side, based in the Polish city of Lodz.
Mutebuka and Teterai, both former pupils of Girls High School in Harare, are playing sevens rugby.
Women’s rugby, in Poland, is ranked at just about the same level as in Zimbabwe.
“I moved to Poland in 2018, and the initial goal was to pursue my studies in law, but I also found myself playing rugby for AZS AWF Warszawa because I used to play the sport in Zimbabwe for the Lady Cheetahs,’’ said Mutebuka
“It all began in 2014 at Girls High School in Harare.
“Abraham Rwodzi, known as coach Bhobho, was the one who nurtured me right from the beginning until 2016 thereabout when I got selected into the national Under-18 team and during that the team was being coached by Nsikelelo “Sykes” Sibanda.
“So, in the years 2016/ 2017, that was my main focus to play for the junior national team and I did train a lot as well, with the senior team, the Lady Cheetahs, and at this time the coach was Abigail Kawonza.
“She did help me a lot in as far as my rugby is concerned.”
Mutebuka grew up in Harare’s high-density suburb of Hatcliffe.
“As a junior student at Girls High School in Harare I admired all the people who would get dozens of awards in sports because GHS is well known for being outstanding in the sport,’’ she said.
“So, I had an opportunity to play club rugby in Zimbabwe and my first club was Cubs before I later moved to Old Georgians who I played for up until the time I moved to Poland.
In Zimbabwe I was a full-time 15s player and now it’s 7s because that’s what Poland focuses on.’’
The prop said she hasn’t suffered any forms of racial discrimination.
“The reception I got in Poland was quite overwhelming . . . It’s quite unheard of to actually see a black female (player) in the rugby field in Poland so that makes my friend Debra (Teterai) and I the first two black females to be seen in the rugby circles.
“Everything has been great, they treat us with love and respect despite the language barrier, and they really make a lot of effort to make us feel at home.”
Mutebuka also spoke about how they were copying with the coronavirus outbreak.
“The coronavirus pandemic did scare me a bit, especially the first few days when the situation was still a bit serious, but I was just taking the precautions that were advised.
“And, now it seems like it has been contained because almost everything is open and we are free to move around.
“My studies weren’t really affected because I was now doing everything online.’’
Mutebuka said she and her Zimbabwean colleagues — Teterai and fellow law student Alicia Chiedza Tamburayi from Bindura — have now adjusted to the weather in Poland.
There are three Zimbabwean students at Lodz University — Mutebuka, Tamburayi and Isheanopa Kuzonyei — and they are all studying law.
“It can get really cold in Poland. I remember my first winter in Poland and it was around minus 15 degrees and really cold so I stayed indoors a lot to avoid catching a cold.
“But, now, I’ve adjusted to the cold weather.”