Homela entrenched in Saints history

BULAWAYO - Football in Zimbabwe is incomplete if the name Gibson Homela is not mentioned. Homela was a household name before and after independence.

Born in Lower Gweru in 1946, Homela is one of the pillars that made the then Mashonaland United now Zimbabwe Saints to become a popular team.

Homela, a son of an agriculture extension officer, started playing football at a very tender age at Msipani Primary school in Zvishavane.

He moved on to Fletcher High School in Gweru where he was able to command a place in the school’s first team when he was only in Form Two together with William Sibanda.

From there he never looked back until he was spotted by a Gweru team called Mashonaland FC which was in the Gweru African Football Association (Gafa).

While playing out for the side, Homela was spotted by the late revolutionary Hebert Ushewokunze, who took him to Bulawayo to join Mashonaland United.

“We were still children but with the support of our school principal, we would travel from school to Bulawayo to play league matches,” recalls Homela.

“So every weekend we would go and play for Mashonaland United. Ushewokunze will come for us every weekend.

“So we would practice at school then go and play in the league. At Form Four I was already a regular in the team.

“It was me, Aleck Mwanza and William Sibanda that was 1963. We made Mashonaland United one of the best teams in the league. We really made it a force to reckon with.”

After finishing his “A” Levels, Homela permanently relocated to Bulawayo as he was now a regular feature of the Mashonaland United team.

As a player, Homela was known as a no nonsense utility player who could virtually play any position on the pitch.

At Mashonaland United, Homela played together with such celebrated names like Paul Kruger, Simon Machaya, Tendai Chieza, Cheetah Antonio, Max Tshuma, Joseph “Mbokodo” Moyo and Emmanuel Sibanda.

He also shared the dressing room with the likes of Peter Mpofu, Moses “Madalaboy” Moyo, the 1976 Soccer Star of the Year, Philemon Dangarembwa and Musa Muzanenhamo.

This Mashonaland United team held its own against the likes of Dynamos and city rivals Highlanders during their golden eras.

Homela and his teammates won their first major silverware when they Salisbury Callies 3-1 at Rufaro Stadium to lift the 1974 BAT Trophy.

The Bulawayo-based club finally landed the big one when they won the league title in 1977.

Homela’s career was, however, tragically halted in 1983 when the Zimbabwe Saints team bus was involved in a road accident on their way back from Zvishavane for a friendly match against Shabanie Mine.

Homela, who was driving the team bus, suffered a serious leg injury when the bus hit a cow on the road.

The injury forced Homela to give up football and a promising career that was destined to go far.

This forced him to go into coaching and he began with the Saints Under-14 team where unearthed a number of the club’s greats.

Homela, who is now one of the country’s Fifa and Caf accredited instructors, feels that the commercialisation of football has destroyed the spirit of the good old days.

“Football is really going down, the main blame I want to put it on the so called player agents or player managers whatever name they give themselves,” he said.

“Football is now a profession. Instead of improving, professionalism has killed our sport. Players are not more chosen on merit.

“I think there is corruption by the so called player agents who are getting away with murder. They are bringing incomplete players in the league and getting money out of it. To me that’s murder.

“The players are getting whatever money they are getting but I don’t think they deserve these monies. They are not doing justice to whatever monies they are getting instead they are robbing the clubs and depriving spectators to watch good football.

“I think we must revive the junior football. In school and clubs, playing organised football with qualified coaches doing the coaching. Schools are playing football that is not organised because the people teaching them are not qualified neither do they understand what coaching is.

“The other problem soccer has become an industry where those who have done badly academically are very much accommodated. You find that most people who have failed in school make soccer an option.

“It’s as if soccer is now for those who do not do well academically. That’s why you find that most of these players have not passed their “O” Level. Coaches are forced to contract these players because that is what they have at their exposure.

“Players these days lack proper junior football background. They are shortcut players who do not have talent but most of them are just opportunists who do not deserve to play for any Premier League team.”

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