Where are they now?

“Maguzberry…….cherai, cherai, cherai woooo, cherai, cherai maguzberry chera (reap those gooseberries).”

Cherai ma guzberry - Sibanda misses those days.
Cherai ma guzberry – Sibanda misses those days.

This was one of the many songs that roused Ozias “Cargo” Sibanda’s spirits before he and his teammates marched onto the turf before a high-profile soccer game.

“We used to sing this song in the dressing room, as we tried to fight back the jittery feelings, especially ahead of a clash with one of the PSL giants,” said the former Masvingo United and Hwange midfielder.

He is now living well in the United Kingdom, where he works as a Shop-fitter and

Merchandiser in Carlisle, but still misses those days, when a career on the soccer field was every boy’s dream.

“If I had things my way, I would turn back time and live in those glory days again. Those were the best days of my life and memories still vividly linger in my mind as if it was yesterday.”

Throughout the interview, Sibanda paid tribute to his boyhood and long time friend, Josphat Musekiwa, who convinced him to try his luck in the “beautiful game”.

Not a very high-profile player, he is one of those that helped an Angirai Chapo-coached Masvingo gain their first promotion to the top-flight league in 1997.

“My childhood was a privileged one, as I rubbed shoulders with such greats like Gift Lunga Jnr, Richard Choruma, Esrom Nyandoro, Benjani Mwaruwari and Thulani Biya Ncube. This helped hone my skills, but despite my talent, I still did not have the confidence to take soccer seriously, until Musekiwa convinced me to do so and I do not regret listening to him,” he added.

“Masvingo gained promotion in my first season with them and the feeling was great. I still remember the feeling that followed our demolition of the so-called big teams that came to Mucheke Stadium hoping for the best results.”

The employment of Lovemore Nyabeza as new coach saw Sibanda fall off the pecking order, as the new mentor brought his own proffered players, dropping most of the old guard.

This pushed the talented midfielder to his homeland, Bulawayo, where the then Hwange coach, Luke Masomere, came knocking for his signature.

“I was initially frustrated by Nyabeza’s actions, but Hwange is where I later enjoyed my game and looking back, I can say the fall-out with Masvingo came as a blessing in disguise,” added the heavily-built former player.

“I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and I became one of the most talked-about players in the premiership. We also turned the Colliery Stadium into a difficult hunting ground for even big teams like Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United. That was where the championship was either won or lost.

“Playing alongside Nation Dube, Tavaka Gumbo, Witness Munkuli, Salim Milazi, Brian Njobvu and Alick Nyoni, I had quickly established myself in the team.”

True to his word, the coalminers earned a lot of respect from premiership teams in those days, with many failing to bring anything from their sojourns in the hot mining town.

Sibanda also had his difficult moments – on the road with his teammates, where he found unfavourable environments.

“The atmosphere opposing fans gave us at Barbourfields and Rufaro Stadium always gave me a problem, but I still did my best under the circumstances.”

With a Warriors cap still high on his wish list, Sibanda was forced out of the game in August 2002, when he got injured on the knee, in a league game against Buymore.

“It was really painful as the national team call-up was already within my sight. I was in top form and confident that the national team selectors would not continue to ignore me, but unfortunately, that became the end of it.”

The 36-year-old still has high regard for his former coaches, who include David Mwanza, Ali “Baba” Dube, Haverson Masilela and Weekly Mwale, who shaped him into a good player.

He left for the UK in frustration just two months after the injury.

“I came here to seek a better life and I am happy to have found it.”

Post published in: Football

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