Chaka: A free-scoring Wonder of the 80s

HARARE – It is not every year when the Zimbabwe top-flight football league is graced by a prolific goal scorer who scores 76 goals in three seasons.

1981 to 1983 was one such era.

Then a fresh-faced number seven answering to the name Wonder Chaka was the hottest property in the Zimbabwean league, quickly earning himself a reputation for his eye for goal.

His goals were not only winning the hearts of many in the Midlands province, but they propelled Gweru United into a dominant force in the Super League.

It came as no surprise when the then 22-year-old Chaka was picked to be part of the pioneering Zimbabwe national football team at Independence in 1980.

That team, coached by John Rugg featured the cream of local football, with such players as Oliver Kateya, the Chidzambwa brothers Misheck and Sunday, Japhet ‘Shortcut’ Mparutsa, Edward Katsvere, Joseph Zulu, Max Tshuma, James Takavada, Stanford ‘Stix’ Mutizwa and Stanley ‘Sinyo’ Ndunduma among the array of stars.

That Zimbabwe XI, whose names are engraved in Zimbabwe’s football folklore, was so good they all featured on the 1981 Soccer Star of the Year list with Chaka being crowned Soccer Star of the Year.

“Those were the good times,” Chaka tells the Daily News.

The road to prominence for Chaka started in 1976 when he joined Gweru United juniors as an Ascot Secondary School pupil.

He would in 1978 play his first competitive game for Gweru United, famously referred to as Pisa Pisa, as a 19-year-old.

In the face of growing financial constraints, the Midlands squad loaned their priced asset to CAPS United during the 1979 season.

Chaka, who was only at CAPS for half a season, was an in instant hero there, playing alongside Stanley ‘Sinyo’ Ndunduma, ‘Stix’ Mtizwa and Shakeman ‘Mr Goals’ Tauro.

“I would practise with Gweru United from Monday to Wednesday then I would travel to Harare, practise with CAPS on Friday and Saturday then play for them on Sunday,” recalls Chaka.

“That was the same case when I was loaned out to Rio Tinto from at the beginning of 1980 where I stayed until mid-season of that year.”

Chaka says his move to now defunct Rio Tinto was precipitated by the departure of lively winger Robert Godoka, who had moved to Canada.

“At that time, John Rugg needed a direct replacement for right-sided winger Robert and during that time the best wingers in the country was me, July Sharara, Steven Kwashi and Ndunduma. I then came back to Gweru United for the 1981 season.”

With Chaka’s return to Pisa Pisa few anticipated the impact he would have on the Midlands outfit in the coming season.

“I scored 25 goals that season; I think Shakeman was behind me with 23 goals,” Chaka says.

“Then in 1982 I scored 27 goals, the next season I scored 24. Naturally I began to gain a lot of attention.”

The 1984 season saw the Midlanders reach the second round of the African Cup Winners' Cup, where they were knocked out by Uganda’s Kampala City Council FC 4-2 on aggregate.

The quicksilver winger would later call time on his career in 1986, owing to a nagging right ankle injury.

Gweru United late crumbled in the late 1980s.

Chaka went into coaching, assuming the headship of lower division outfit Zim Alloys.

Apart from football, Chaka is currently employed by Zim Alloys as the engineering planning officer. He has worked for Zim Alloys since 1980.

The 55-year-old Chaka is married to his childhood sweetheart Judith, with whom he has four children – Sandra, Wendy, Isheanesu and Wonder Jnr.

Having watched Gweru go without top flight league for A LONG TIME, Chaka believes Zim Alloys is the team to bring back the glory days to the City of Progress.

“Players like Nelson Maziwisa, Kuda Musharu, Max Muchabaiwa and Roderick Mutuma were all once under Zim Alloys,” he says.

“It’s all down to finance, with adequate funding we will get there.”

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