Zim's vast array of versatile sportsmen

HARARE - Imagine Zimbabwe cricket all-rounder Elton Chigumbura one day swapping his bat and ball for boxing gloves!

That is no fiction after former England player Andrew Flintoff traded the gentleman’s game of cricket for the “violent” sport of boxing.

Flintoff, announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in 2010 after admitting defeat in his long-standing battle with injury.

Last week, “Freddie”, as he was affectionately known, made a winning debut in a boxing bout in England against American Richard Dawson.

 A close look at Zimbabwean sports shows that quite a few sportsmen and women from this country are actually multi-talented athletes who could well have excelled in a different discipline than the one they chose.

Three of Zimbabwe’s finest football talent of the past five years, Nyasha Mushekwi, Nqobile Mpala and Farai Mupasiri could have enjoyed in careers in other disciplines, but chose football.

Mushekwi was a competent basketball player in Zimbabwe’s top flight league before trying out his hand at football at Motor Action, where he was told he was not good enough to play the beautiful game.

CAPS United came to his rescue and signed him on, a decision the Green Machine will never regret. He plundered 21 goals for United in 2009 to win the Premier Soccer League’s Golden Boot award before making the great trek to South Africa, where he joined Pretoria giants Mamelodi Sundowns.

CAPS United striker Mpala made his name at fellow Premiership club Highlanders after choosing football over rugby. In 2005, the former Falcon College pupil represented the Zimbabwe Under-19 rugby side at the inaugural Under-19 World Cup in Durban, South Africa.

The latest rugby export to football is none other than new Dynamos darling Mupasiri, who only two years ago was named in a Zimbabwe national rugby team provisional squad after representing the Under-19 side at the IRB World Youth Rugby Trophy in Ireland in 2010.

While at school at Lomagundi College, Mupasiri played first team rugby and basketball. He never played football in high school.

Another former schoolboy rugby sensation, ex-Prince Edward student Lance Eeson, played semi-professional football in New Zealand and Australia after immigrating there.

Since football and rugby clashed during the schools second term, Eeson could only play football at social level for the Hellas club during school holidays.

Zimbabwe cricket seam bowler Shingi Masakadza was once on the books of the country’s football giants Dynamos as a defender before deciding to join his older brother Hamilton in cricket.

Zimbabwean sports is littered with versatile sportsmen from past generation.

Current Zimbabwe rugby captain Costa Dinha also played international basketball for Zimbabwe alongside Emmanuel Mukandi, a former Sables lock forward. Kenyon Ziehl, a former Zimbabwe Cricket head selector and current Midwest Rhinos franchise chief executive, represented Zimbabwe at both cricket and rugby.

Another cricket-rugby Zimbabwe international is Guy Whittall, who however is better known as a former national cricket team all-rounder. Former Zimbabwe cricket captain and coach Dave Houghton was a national team hockey goalkeeper before the country attained Test cricket status in 1991.
Former Zimbabwe rugby team scrumhalf Tapiwa Mafi is the current Zimbabwe men’s hockey team captain.
Former Zimbabwe Women cricket team players Precious Marange and Yvonne Rainsford turned to rugby and represented the country after losing their places in the cricket side.

Quite a number of Zimbabwean Women rugby players “migrated” play the game during the basketball off-season.

A lot more local sportsmen played for the country at full international level in one sport, and then at first-class or provincial level in another discipline.

One such man is Sables eighthman Norman Mukondiwa, who played first-class cricket for the CFX Academy, Matabeleland and Masvingo.

Zimbabwean cricketer Craig Ervine represented the country at golf in the Zone Six Games during his sabbatical from the game.

Another talented cricketer, Sean Williams, was once named in a Zimbabwe hockey team provisional squad, although he was not capped.

Short-lived Sables flyhalf Roland Benade is now trying to work his way into the Zimbabwe cricket team through local first-class side Midwest Rhinos, with whom he is contracted. Former Wellington batsman James Cameron, who recently quit cricket, represented Zimbabwe at both cricket and rugby Under-19 world championships. — Weekend Post

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