Short in size, tall in dreams

BULAWAYO - It is rare for footballers that are short in stature to excel in defence, but such exceptional players have popped up from time to time in local top-flight soccer.

A few that come to mind include former Hwange left-back Benson Soko, former Air Zimbabwe Jets, Circle United and Dynamos defender Lovemore Mapuya and ex-Highlanders right-back Simon “Makwee” Sibanda.

Standing at just above a metre, Sibanda was a firm favourite of the Black and White army during Highlanders’ dominance of the local game at the turn of the Century.

He was a very feisty footballer during his days and still displays the same traits to this day.

The former Bosso star has a tendency to ruffle feathers due to his outspokenness and during an interview with this reporter he immediately let loose, accusing journalists of killing the game of football.

His gripe lay in the fact that most of the Bulawayo-based top-flight clubs continue to recruit players from outside the city.

“You (the media) have killed our football because you do not write about pertinent issues that affect the local game,” Sibanda alleged.

“Let me tell you why the fans are no longer coming in their numbers to watch most of the Premier League teams based in Bulawayo; it is because their players are not locals and so the supporters do not feel any connection with the teams.”

Upon being reminded that he also tried his luck at Dynamos in the twilight of his career, Sibanda said:

“I did not stay for long in Harare because it was apparent that they preferred local players and to me it makes a lot of sense, considering that people in Harare would easily identify with a local boy than an outsider.

“For example, Highlanders fans from Makokoba where I grew up would flock to the stadium to watch me in action and give me moral support because they were proud that I represented the township,” Sibanda said.

A product of the Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints junior structures, Sibanda played alongside the likes of Thulani Ncube, Dazzy Kapenya, Bekithemba Ndlovu and Gift Makheyi Lunga in the trailblazing Bosso team that was coached by Rahman Gumbo.

Sibanda was a skilful defender who could defend and attack in equal measure and he considers Gumbo the best of the coaches that he worked with during his playing days.

After leaving Highlanders, Sibanda had stints with Dynamos and Chrome Stars before hanging up his boots.

A keen advocate for former players to be given a role to play in the development of football, Sibanda lambasted football administrators for turning away former greats from local stadia.

“It is embarrassing when former players are denied entry to watch football matches by administrators who forget that the former footballers contributed to the growth of the game in this country.

“The problem is that football is being led by people who never played the game and so the interests of former players are trampled upon,” Sibanda said.

Now a resident of Pumula South, Sibanda’s nickname is Makwee, which is slang for Makokoba Township where he grew up.

He was also nicknamed “Doink”, after the famed World Wrestling Federation wrestler, during his playing days.

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