Ascot was our fortress: Michael

HARARE - Former Chapungu defender Joseph Michael has fond memories of the glorious days they turned Ascot Stadium in Gweru into a fortress.

Most of the country’s big teams dreaded the trip to Ascot where they were guaranteed a torrid time by the Air Force of Zimbabwe side which was under the guidance of legendary coach Lovemore Nyabeza.

Michael, who hung up his boots in 2001, was part of the formidable Waru Waru side that also included the likes of Innocent Chogugudza, the Muteji twin brothers Abel and Cain, Wellington Shangiwa, and Alfonso Mugovera among others.

“There was stiff competition in the team but I was fortunate to always make it in the starting XI. We tormented the big teams like Dynamos, CAPS United and Highlanders,” Michael tells the Daily News.

“We played the game to enjoy ourselves as there was not much money involved like now, yet competition was very high. We turned Ascot into our fortress.”

Although Nyabeza gave Michael the big break in the country’s top flight league, the defender credits his football career spanning over 10 years to the late Peter “Thunderboots” Nyama.

Born 48 years ago, Michael began his career at State House Tornados (Darryn T) where he would flourish under Nyama.

Michael quickly established himself and became a vital cog in Darryn T’s defence, as they punished many clubs with their excellent displays driven by such players like John Phiri, David “Chikwama” Mwanza, Jonah Tasanangurwa among others.

“I joined Tornados in 1986, and there were playing in Division One,” Michael says.

“I remember having a sterling season that year in defence and could switch from centre back to right back. There was a lot of talent then and competition for places was stiff.

“At Tornados, I worked under (Peter) Nyama. I should say that man really made me become the player I was then. He made brought out the best in me and I am very grateful to him because without whom I would not have made it to the top flight.”

Soon the Mbare-born starlet’s early performances saw him attract the interest of another Division One side in the Central Region, Blue Swallows.

Michael completed the switch to the Midlands-based side in 1993.

There his exploits for Blue Swallows saw the team gaining promotion into the Premier League in 1997 where Patrick Nechironga (late) was the head coach. 

And despite the fact that his team was promoted into Premiership, Michael had done enough to attract the attention of Nyabeza who was coaching Midlands-outfit Chapungu.

He joined Waru Waru at the start of the 1998 season.

“I think I developed more as a player at Swallows and it was easy for me when I joined Chapungu. I should say I enjoyed my football at Chapungu. We were a compact unit.”

Micheal’s went on to hang his boots in 2001 and despite all his exploits at club level, he never got the opportunity to represent his country.

However, the former defender has no regrets for a glittering career.

“Looking back at my heyday, I think I did my best during my career and I have no regrets. There was a lot of competition during our playing days,” he says.

“While it’s everyone’s dream to play for the national team, I also acknowledge the fact that there was a lot talent then.”

The former Chapungu player is now giving back to the sport through coaching.

He has had  stints with his former team Chapungu as well as several football academies and junior teams in the Midlands.

Micheal is the current coach of Central Region Division One side Midlands State University Football Club.

Last season, he led the team to a second place finish coming short on promotion to eventual winners Hwahwa FC.

Born in 1967 in Mbare, Micheal went to St Peters Primary before proceeding to Lord Malvern for his secondary education.

Micheal is married to Alice and the couple is blessed with two boys, Alexander and Malvern.