But sadly some former Zimbabwean topflight league players are now wandering in South African recreational parks, where they play 5-a-side soccer and social games. Hordes of others are doing menial jobs – despite being young and talented enough to walk into the starting line-up of any team back home.
Thubelihle Ncube (Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints), Zazini Siso (Hwange), Johannes Chipunza (Bantu Rovers), Ngqabutho sibanda (Railstars), Kelvin Maseko (Railstars), Jila Jubane (Lancashire Steel), Melusi Ndebele (Highlanders), Mlungisi Ndebele (Zimbabwe Saints), Robson Chisango (Black Rhinos) and Nqobile Ndlovu (Blue Swallows), are some of the household names that have vanished from Zimbabwean soccer.
While fans are wondering what could have happened to them, they are all now living in Johannesburg singing from one hymn book: that Zimbabwean soccer failed to give them what they could have achieved with their talents had they been born elsewhere, especially here.
During a series of interviews recently, the players criticized ZIFA, football clubs, managers, agents and the government for the rot in the game that forced them out when their legs could still carry them.
Former Railstars midfielder, Patson Rungisa, said government’s failure to invest in sport and failure to manage the economy had cost them a lifetime.
“A lot of talent has been wasted on the streets and no one is doing anything about it. Sports officials back home are aware of the situation, but they remain quiet on the issue,” he said.
“If they were passionate enough, they would have done follow-ups on former players. Quitting the game at 26 was not in my plans, but the economic downturn forced me into it. I tried to stick it out, but I could not hold on because it kept getting worse.”
Former FC Platinum midfielder, Golden Munandi, who now works as a general hand in a private construction company in Johannesburg, described the cash-rich outfit as a ‘Devil’s den’.
“I am suffering in a foreign country today. Life in the construction industry is as bad as that in an army training camp. I am in this situation because of that ungrateful club. I did my best for them, including earning them promotion into the PSL, but they kicked me out like a stinking rodent, without paying me my money,” said Munandi.
“I am still struggling to get my money and their management now drop my phone calls without explanation. As a father, I have to provide food for my family and this construction work is the only thing I can do.”
Munandi alleges that his contract was unfairly terminated by the Zvishavane-based club, and that he is still owed signing-on fees and compensation.
Mike Zivira, a former top goal-scorer with former league champions, Amazulu, also lambasted ZIFA for the untamed exodus of talented players.
“I am to blame for my own downfall, but what do you say about those youngsters roaming the streets of Johannesburg? I keep meeting many of them, some asking for money. ZIFA must take responsibility if they need our national team to succeed. Most of the players who quit are national team material,” said the former hit-man.
“The government and ZIFA must work towards taming the exodus of our young talent for menial jobs in SA. The government must also arrest bogus agents who take advantage of vulnerable players.”Post published in: Football