A cub who never knew the lion's den

HARARE - Former Sporting Cubs defender Brian Mhizha says he does not have any regrets for not playing for Sporting Lions, the club’s first team.

But rather what he regrets is leaving the game early in search of greener pastures in South Africa due to the economic meltdown in the country.

Mhizha’s football career started in Glen View at an early age and he made his mark in primary school. He then perfected the art during his senior school years at Glen View High 1.

In 2001, he began his professional career, turning out for the now defund Sporting Lions reserve side, known as Sporting Cubs.

“My professional career all started at Sporting Cubs and in 2003 I was promoted to play in the first team,” Mhizha told the Daily News this week.

“Rahman Gumbo, who was the head coach then, was fired and Clayton Munemo took over. He was the one who introduced me to Premiership football. I was promoted towards the end of the season but warmed the bench for the last three or four games and never got to play for the first team.”

Sporting Lions has such quality players as Callisto Pasuwa, Dazzy Kapenya, Thomas Sweswe, Thabani Masawi and the late Shingirai Arlon.

The gifted defender, who could play as a centre-back, left-back or defensive midfielder, never realised his dream of playing for the senior side at Lions and given the array of stars at the team, Mhizha could not just break through.

“I wasn’t worried about that considering that I was only 19 and football those days was played by mature people both in age and stature, all these players were household names in Zimbabwe football at that time and I’m glad that Clayton Munemo even considered me,” he said.

The following year, Sporting Lions disbanded after the club’s directors split, forcing Mhizha to move to Real United.

From Real, Gishon Ntini facilitated his move to Hwange, where he met Paul Moyo, a man he rates as his best coach ever. Paul Moyo’s sons, Benedict and Benjamin (late), both became renowned coaches following in the footsteps of their father.

At Hwange, Mhizha played alongside such players as Obert Moyo, Takesure Chinyama, Edmore Chitato, Carlington Gomba, amongst others, featuring mainly as a central defender and at times being used as a left-back and defensive midfielder.

“Chinyama who was gifted with a powerful shot but Obert Moyo was just marvellous with his understanding of the game,” added Mhizha.

Asked to name the hardest opponent he faced in his career, he said: “Ronald Sibanda stands out as the most trickier opponent and the best player I ever faced. As a defender you needed to be 200 percent with your concentration because of his passing ability.”

Mhizha, now a father of two girls, Naledi and Lesedi, is married to Pretty Nhlabathi and lives in Cape Town, where he is employed as a driver at KFC. He moved down South in 2008 after a year-stint with Gunners Football Club in the capital having left Hwange in 2006.

“When we were growing up playing junior football in Glen View we only dreamt of maybe playing division one; football was not an easy industry to penetrate those days. I moved to South Africa in 2008 after getting a bit frustrated with life in Hwange at the end of 2006 and moved to Gunners in 2007 up until I left for South Africa.

“My regret about football has to be leaving the sport I loved so much so early because of the economic situation in my beloved country.

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