OBITUARY: Mawi-i, prodigious talent gone too soon

HARARE - Growing up in Harare’s Glen Norah high density suburb was fun to boys of my age given the zing zing that football brought to the township.

Glen Norah was home to some of the finest footballers that this country has ever produced.

Among this finest crop were George Shaya, Daniel “Dhidhidhi” Ncube, David George, Shacky Tauro (late) Wonder Chisetera and Friday Phiri, true gentlemen of the game who went on to inspire fledgling talent in the hood to purse football as a career.

Of course Glen Norah also had good players residing in the suburb such as Charles Sibanda, Oliver Chidemo and Jawet Nechironga whose two sons — George and Francis — went on to play Premiership football for CAPS United, Arcadia United and Rio Dairibord.

But it was Shacky Tauro who touched my early football loving-life with goal-scoring exploits which were instrumental in following CAPS United as a primary school boy.

Tauro inspired a golden generation in the history of the club’s juniors and most of them had the opportunity to play with him in the CAPS United team, later in his twilight years.

The late Makepekepe striker lived six houses away from parents’ and both were employed by CAPS Private Limited.

That proximity gave me an opportunity of meeting some of Zimbabwe’s finest footballers of that time — the 80s — such as Ephraim Chawanda, Joseph Machingura (late), Moses Chunga, Gift Mpariwa, Joel Shambo, Stanford Mutizwa, Brenna Msiska, Stanley Ndunduma (late) and Edward Katsvere (late).

Among the crop of these players was Willard Khumalo, a stocky but talented midfielder whose life ended at the weekend when he succumbed to diabetes.

Mawi-i or Nduna (the chief) was gifted to the extent that when we were playing plastic football (hweshe) in Glen Norah, fights often broke out amongst ourselves on who deserved to be called Mawi-i, in reference to Khumalo.

It’s a pity that the affable former Highlanders midfielder died without having really replicated his on-field form on the club’s bench.

He was not as gifted as a coach as he was when playing but his cracking jokes and strong personality lifted the Highlanders dressing room, those who once played with him, would always say it publicly.

The few times that I interacted with him when he visited Tauro at his Glen Norah home, he would always say to me: “Mfana, ask Joel Shambo kuti Shumba yake ndiani? I control the midfield and you are supporting a wrong team, CAPS United, switch over to Bosso.”

Indeed he dominated Shambo in the Independence Trophy final in which he inspired Highlanders to a 2-1 victory over CAPS United, having been a goal down at half-time, trailing to a Tauro goal which came via a scissors kick.

The whole Vietnam Stand at Rufaro stood to salute Mawi-i at the end of the match and even CAPS Untied supporters, gave him a standing ovation, grudgingly, though.

Khumalo marshalled the Warriors midfield like a general during the Dream Team and his performance in the 4-1 massacre of South Africa in 1992 at the National Sports Stadium was a reminder of his talents.

He reduced former Kaizer Chiefs darling — Doctor “16 Valve” Khumalo to a passenger as he won the battle of showboating.

Summing up his performance at the end of the game Mawi-i famously threw a jibe at Doctor Khumalo saying he was “not a doctor but a nurse”.

In 1993 he propelled Highlanders to a hard fought 1-0 league win over CAPS United at Gwanzura Stadium when he scored a 40-metre belter which gave Brenna Msiska no chance at the Machipisa end.

There was no missing that orange ball which nestled into the nets in that crazy first half.

The goal, scored from the left wing, in      the first half of a cagey match would see Bosso winning the title at the end of the season.

These were some of my best moments in watching football, seeing a man with a huge frame, playing like a pencil-slim athlete while combining his weight with good balance and movement in the middle of the park.

He might have left Highlanders, as a player, ingloriously after clashing with former coach Roy Bareto, but no one could erase Mawi-i from their memories.

The former Bosso player and later coach, was a prodigious talent.

Even his stints  in South Africa and later back here, at Lancashire Steel and Shoeshine, did not do any harm in showing a gifted player whose talents were beginning to be affected by the hands of the clock.

He might have failed to command the Bosso bench in the same way he used to in their midfield, but very few will doubt that he was a Matabele warrior who gave everything for the black and white Highlanders jersey.

They say you are lonely when you are dead, but Mawi-i certainly is not lonely — he has thousands of football lovers singing his praises.

At 49 years, he is a life that’s gone too soon but he remains one of the players of my time, thanks to the late Shacky Tauro!

 

Comments (10)

after the playing days of the gentlemen you have mentioned here, zim soccer has never became the same again and i wonder if it will ever be. i know that our press (media) tries hard to put the players of this generation to that level, but the truth is, not at all. they are far off.

see - 25 August 2015

Willard Khumalo, a true Zimbabwean. Those days we used to buy Parade magazine every month with colourful pictures of soccer players. I had a big poster of Willard Khumalo. Those days where Highlanders players would freely visit Dynamos players at their homes in Harare, days where Dynamos players freely visited their Highlanders counterparts homes. Days where players players would be acknowledged and respected by supportes of other teams. Days where Shona kids would fight over who would carry the nickname of Madinda (because they knew him as an exceptional player and not as a Ndebele). Willard, those sudden turns, sudden burst of speed, defence splitting passes. Who would not have loved that. Rest in peace true warrior. It's players like you who made that name for you were truly a warrior.

Kudakwashe Hondo - 25 August 2015

Nice eulogy G3! Very befitting of a man of Willard's iconic stature. Yes, Kuda Hondo you are right...EXCLUSIVE PARADE PULLOUT was something to look forward to every month. Back then there was an aura around star footballers , they could not walk freely in town without being lovingly mobbed by soccer fans! I was there at the NSS on 16 August 1992 when the over confident Kappa-clad Shoe Shine 'pianists' were clobbered 4-1. Willard put up a vintage performance. Hamba kahle u Mawiiii....Nduna. Fare thee well!

Trevor Fadzi - 25 August 2015

I was too young to remember all the details but it must have been 91 or 90 there abouts and Mawii had just returned from a stint in Germany(not sure why this has not been mentioned in all the articles i have read so far). The game a cup final must have been Castle cup at the National sports stadium...whenever Mawii got the ball the whole stadium would go Mawiiiiiiiiiii imageine that and the man would not disappoint either he would inturn do a gallop (for lack of a better word) as he immersed himself into the heart of the game .He was a show man indeed and will be greatly missed ...the game ended in penalties dont remember who won but i sure remember the whole NSS reverberating to the chorus of Mahwwiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

mazana mambombo - 25 August 2015

Titus Majola, Madida Ndlovu, Titho Pakethi. Mashinkila. I still have that 1987 Highlenders line up with almost all the silver ware on domestic football they won. R I P Mahwiiiiii.

piaget - 26 August 2015

Bosso and Dembare are brothers from different towns. They competed in the field but still remain brothers b4 and after the match and always. Politics of today has destroyed all that. Nduna was a loveable showman, with fun & humility and exceptional artistry despite huge body.RIP MAHWIII.

EL-DODO - 26 August 2015

Truly life is a journey. How could he go so soon. One painful issue is, since these guys hanged boots - the likes of Mawii, Shambo, Tauro, Mandigora, Moseee, Madinda, Peter, Adam, Kwinjiii, Chawanda, Mckop, Groblaar, the twins Mugeyis, Nechirongaaa, and the likes of that era, soccer has never been so exciting and appetizing. It has gone drastically down. Nomore committed players.... This is dsigusting. Why Zim particularly. Also, saddened by player welfare. Bosso and other teams should find ways to look after legendary former players. Its so touching if you assess how such great players survive after soccer life. Zifaaaa dead... Anyway. i had the chance to watch/listen real soccer - bosso vs dembare vs kepe kepe etc during those days 1980-1998... listen on a wireless (small radio emasimini kumbe enkomeni... Thanks Ndunaaaa. REP

Rem - 26 August 2015

The early soccer players ,from the 60s to mid 80s the Shayas and the rest did a great job. A foundation of soccer was laid. At 1990 local soccer achieved an identity something that our national team don't have at the moment. Without qualifying for Afcon we were ranked between 8-10 in africa. These were great players to mention a few because the list is endless. Willard Khumalo, Rahman Gumbo, Shepherd Muradzikwa, Benjamin Konjera, Max Makanza, Melusi Nkiwane, Vitalis Takawira, Agent Sawu , Madinda Peter, Adam, Ndlovus, John phiri, Paul Gundani, Mercedes Sibanda, Francis Shonayi, Henry Mackop ,Ephraim Chawanda and the Jungle man. The Great Egypt feared us , The mighty Cameroon collapsed at NSS. Zifa working with Ministries of Sport and Education must create Soccer schools across country districts,. Soccer must be played continuously through out the season not just one term. Lets have former great players working with the youth in such institutions . I will not complain even if it means they are to be on govt PAYROLL because the rewards will come. We must retain and invest our legend's talent. Willard R.I.P

X-MAN IV - 26 August 2015

Mawii was a midfield genius; intelligent vision from the midfield as you would not know where and to whom he was going to pass the ball and with a smile. He mesmerised opponents. God takes the best. RIP Willard.

Sibusiso Ncube - 29 August 2015

... and after the 4-1 demolition of Bafana he joked ' Dr Khumalo is too beautiful to play soccer .. a nurse..' that was Mahwiii for u...

john mberi - 31 August 2015

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