Where are they now? Wellington Mbono

Wellington Mbono proved his quality when he played in the local premiership about a decade ago, gifted with tight marking, timely interceptions, a good vision and exceptional leadership qualities.

Wellington Mbono.
Wellington Mbono.

Mbono broke into the topflight league when he joined Hwange from second-division side, ZUPCO in 1996, at the age of 19. “I had played in the lower divisions for a few years and when the then ambitious Hwange came knocking, I realised an opportunity to make true my dream of playing in the PSL,” said the former player, who was at ease playing in defence or midfield.

After a few seasons with ZUPCO, Mbono was signed by Chipangano. “It was not a difficult task settling in at Hwange because their players were united and welcoming. I easily found my feet and riding on the support I got from my teammates, I developed into the household name I later became.

I really enjoyed my time at the Colliery,” he said. Mbono played alongside Hwange’s other yesteryear stars like Taboniswa Ncube, Shimani Mathe, Brian Njobvu, Jabulani Ngwenya, Milos Phiri and Walter Chuma and together, they turned Chipangano into one of the most-respected sides in the PSL.

“No-one would come into the Colliery Stadium and do as they pleased with us – not even the so-called big clubs like Highlanders, Dynamos and Caps United. We turned that stadium into slaughter house and that is where championship-chasing teams’ strength was always put to the test.”

It was not long before Mbono’s brilliant showing got him a move to Shabanie, just three years after he had turned professional. He was given the shifted to defence and instantly became a pain in the neck for many a striker in the league.

So good was his showing that he was later elevated to Waru Waru’s second captain, deputising Thomas Makwasha. When Makwasha was later relegated to the bench, Mbona became the acting captain.

Together with Steven Matsaire, Rowen Nenzou and Shadreck Malunga, they made Shabanie’s backline one of the best in the league, as the Zvishavane-based side announced their arrival in the league one of history’s most-memorable, winning the Madison Trophy, after the edged Harare giants, Dynamos, 1-0 in the final at the National Sports Stadium.

“It was not easy playing in defence at that time because the league had a number of sharp strikers, like Highlanders’ Zenzo Moyo, Amazulu’s Norman Nkomani and the Dynamos duo of Sandras Kumwenda and Makwinji-Soma Phiri,” said the former star.

Other players Mbono played with at Shabanie included Max Ruza, Albert Mbano, Patrick Mandizha, Asani Juma and Andrew Chisunga. After two seasons he moved to Njube Sundowns, where he helped the Joshua Mizha-coached outfit become a competitive club.

“Sundowns was an ambitious club with many talented youngsters and that gave the opportunity to link-up with my former childhood friends Mephias Webb, Elson Phiri, Kelvin Maseko and Heritani Masuku,” he said.

Mbono’s career was cut short by a knee injury in the same season he joined the Bulawayo side, but despite the setback, he never gave up on the sport and is now coach at Bulawayo First Division side, New West City, which has produced more than 20-players that have starred for various PSL clubs.

Some of those are Rahman Kutsanzira and his younger brother Innocent, Zibusiso Sibanda, Eddie Nkulungo, Freedom Magaba and Prince Ncube.

“My life revolves around soccer and I will continue to develop young talent. I know I will be coaching in the PSL one day. I want the youngsters to work hard every day and remain focused on their game if they are to succeed,” he said.

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