Chawanda, a Rock of Zim football

HARARE - Call it genius, magnetism, call it what you like, but Ephraim Chawanda (pictured) was simply a star — there is no  word big enough to do justice to his contribution to Zimbabwe football.

The 50-year-old Chawanda was a key member of the legendary “Dream Team” and the 1988 championship winning Zimbabwe Saints squad.

Nicknamed “The Rock of Gibraltar”, the centre back was a crucial member of that talented Chauya Chikwata side together with the senior national team, the Warriors.

As a young boy, the defender horned his skills at Black Aces, a team which was based in his childhood home of Matshobane in Bulawayo.

He also played for the junior teams of Queens Sports Club and Llewellyn FC.

It did not take much time before his talent attracted the attention of top flight side Zimbabwe Saints, who snapped on the defender in 1984 when he was only 19.

At Saints, Chawanda came of age and four years later he would lead the  Bulawayo-based side to the Promised Land.

Chawanda was part of a talented Chauya Chikwata side that included the likes of Misheck “Roadblock” Sibanda, Jethro “Chemmy” Hunidzarira, Josephat “Mazhambe” Humbasha, Jimmy Phiri, Obey Sova, Henry “Bully” McKop, George Ayibu, the late Melusi Nkiwane and Joseph Machingura.

To put icing on the cake, that same year, Chawanda was voted to be the Zimbabwe Soccer Star of the Year. 

“The foundation of our winning team of 1988 was started by Howard Maviza and Tendai Chieza, later joined by Roy Barreto and Roger Russell,” Chawanda tells the Daily News.

“These were our technical fathers and brothers so to say, as we were all a close family. By that time, we had dedicated leaders some of them are Cephas Mkonto, Vincent Pamire, John Nyazika, Isaac Banda, Bafundi Mpofu to mention a few.

“It is pity that a few additions to the technical team brought radical changes which destroyed  proper continuity of the team.

“It’s high time for a certain individual to leave the institution, as personalising it has been detrimental to its existence.”

Chauya Chikwata, one of Zimbabwe’s traditional football giants, is now defunct after their relegation from the Premiership in the 2011 season.

Chawanda left the Bulawayo side in 1989 and settled in Germany where he played for Bonner Sports Club, Victoria Cologne and Rheinbach.

After six years in Germany, Chawanda relocated to South Africa in 1995 to join Orlando Pirates.

He stayed at the Sea Robbers for two seasons before moving to another Soweto club Moroka Swallows.

Chawanda finally ended his playing career at Tanganda in Mutare where he was the player coach.

However, most Zimbabweans will remember Chawanda as a no-nonsense centre half, who took no prisoners when playing for the national team.

Between 1987 and 1996, Chawanda was a permanent feature in the Zimbabwe national team under coach Reinhard Fabisch.

Under Chawanda’s captaincy, the Warriors at one stage achieved a 13-match unbeaten home run.

Among some of the Dream Team’s scalps were the likes of African football giants, Cameroon and Egypt.

That Dream Team side also included the likes of Bruce Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu, Francis Shonhayi, Benjamin Nkonjera, Adam Ndlovu, Rahman Gumbo, John Phiri, Paul Gundani, Agent Sawu, Alexander Maseko and Henry McKop.

“With the national team, my best moments were beating Egypt in France and with Saints my best moment was winning the championship in 1988,” recalls Chawanda.

After retiring from playing, as a coach Chawanda joined South Africa’s Vodacom league side, FC Sporting in Nelspruit in 2003 and helped them to secure National First Division place.

He returned home in 2011, where he had a brief stint with his former club, Saints, but failed to save them from the chop, after he had taken over from Willard Khumalo.

“Currently I am in Botswana and I am dubbed in few activities of coaching, but I’ve done most of my coaching in South Africa which has been my major home since retirement,” he says.

Chawanda also took a swipe on the current Zifa leadership for presiding over the crisis that has crippled Zimbabwean football.

“About out national football, I think the leaders should stop trying to be ‘Messiahs’ of football,” he says.

“We need to revert back to proper football leadership, with proper development and junior football structures.

“What Fifa has done is somehow a blessing to us, as our football environment has been like a plane being serviced whilst in flight.”

Zimbabwe was last week banned by Fifa from participating in the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers after failing to pay former coach Valinhos.

The Brazilian, who took charge of the Warriors between February and October 2008, is owed $60 000 by Zifa and he reported the matter to Fifa.

Since 2012, the Fifa Disciplinary Committee tried to engage Zifa to find a solution to the impasse but the local football association failed to heed the warnings.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.