By Lot Chitakasha
“I have a lot to thank Alois Bunjira for. He was a true brother during my darkest hour. When I was injured while on National Under 23 duty, I thought my career was over. The Football authorities did little to help me with my rehabilitation. I had almost accepted my fate until Alois invited me to South Africa where he was based, that call saved my career”, Musareka Jenitala recalled with the raw emotion of gratitude very palpable in his voice.
By starting his narrative with this watershed moment , Musareka captures the travails , tribulations and challenges often faced by many footballers. Cherished as long as they are fit, healthy and delivering on the pitch, the script soon changes when injuries strike.
The praise and worshippers, the football authorities and even some close friends soon evaporate into thin air. A separate article will explore how great talent was lost due to the poor management of injuries, it is a damning indictment of our football in Zimbabwe.
When a friend comes to the rescue, especially a fellow footballer, it restores our faith in this species which is often presented as selfish egotists who only think about their careers.
This gesture by Alois allowed us to enjoy the prodigious talents of a football genius for a little bit longer otherwise he would have gone the way of Edwin Farai, Samson “Sister” Choruwa, Basil Chisopo to mention a few talented players whom we lost in their prime.
But how did this journey begin for Musareka, the man who on his debut “cut through the Caps United defence like a hot knife through butter,” to borrow from legendary commentator Charles Mabika’s words. Where did he hone his skills? How did he master such trickery?
Musareka was born in Harare but his family moved to Chitungwiza in Unit M.
“When we were growing up, there were no other activities apart from going to school and playing football. We did not spend time on facebook, there was no facebook, we did not spend time googling on our smart phones, there were no mobile phones, all we did was get a ball and play it in the streets. The streets taught us football and endowed us with the skills,” said Musa.
Chitungwiza is the home of football and Musareka did not have a shortage of role models to look up to. When Daryn T a club run by Polish coach Wieslaw Grabowski, the man who nurtured a lot of players from this dormitory town with the astute help of unsung hero Never Gombera was banned from the Zimbabwe league , the coach continued to train players. He wanted to keep the players active and even export some of them to Europe.
One day Shingi Kawondera who was from the same street with Musa invited him to the training ground. “ A player was injured and the coach asked me to join in. All along I had been basically been a ball boy but I seized the opportunity with both hands. I put in a blinding performance and by the end of the session my contract was ready,” remembers the former dribbling wizard.
When Daryn T’s appeal against the ban was successful, they had a team ready for the league. From 1999 to 2000 , they gave teams a run for their money with Musareka a thorn in the flesh of most defenders. His close ball control and dribbling skills were a marvel to watch.
The group of youngsters played without fear something that Wieslaw Grabowski should be given credit for. He took risks, threw youngsters into the mix and allowed them to play. He was often rewarded with fearless performances.
Musareka was rewarded with a National team call up. Gibson Homela invited him to join the squad which included the likes of Tinashe Nengomasha,Tapuwa Kapini, Dickson Choto,Nyasha
Nyazika,vJohannes Ngodzo and David Sengu among others.
They were a talented group and had a good tournament in South Africa. What promised to be the genesis of great things soon turned into a nightmare when the injury struck.
“It was a knee injury, a serious one, but God intervened, he sent Alois, indeed God works in mysterious ways. I am more than grateful”, said Musa.
After recovering from the injury, Musa spend six months playing social football with friends. The signs were good enough and he felt confident to start on another football adventure. Masvingo United were his next port of call. “ It was an opportunity for me to regain my confidence away from the spotlight of Harare. The team was good and we were paid really well”, the former dribbling wizard said.
The eagle eyed Grabowski who never missed a football opportunity , took note of Musa ‘s form and claimed him back as his player. He offered him to Dynamos and this allowed the player to gain full fitness.
“My performances were really good, Grabowski decided to take a gamble and sent me for trials in Poland..”
According to Musa, Grabowski was like a double edged sword, creating opportunities for players but sometimes closing the door because of his unreasonable demands.
”In 2005, he linked me up with Swit Nowy Dwar Mazowiecki Football Club. When I arrived, the team had departed for a training camp in Tunisia. Instead of sending me there, Grabowski asked me to train with Liege Warsaw, one of the strongest clubs in Poland.
“He asked me to get to the training session 25 minutes before the end. He talked to the coach and I was allowed to train. The rest of the players were tired, I was fresh, what a game I had! The coach called me little Maradona and wanted to sign me on that day…”
What followed was a tug of war between Mazowiecki, Liege Warsaw and Grabowski with Musa the bargaining chip. Grabowski was demanding a lot of money, money that the two clubs were unwilling to pay. Six months passed and with no prospects of a resolution, the star packed up his bags and went back home .The opportunity, created by Grabowski had been killed by Grabowski.
On his return, he rejoined Masvingo United in 2005 with whom he won the Zifa Unity Cup and were runners up in the league. In 2006 Joe Serengendo the owner Shooting Stars approached him and he joined. Musa also tried his luck in Cyprus after an invitation from Shingi Kawondera who was based there.
The football adventure even took him to Seychelles and it is this episode which makes him look back with regret.
“ I found myself in one of the most beautiful islands on this planet, playing football and being paid well. La Digue is beautiful, La Passe are a half decent team, the owner loved me to bits and wanted me to commit long term.
“I dilly dallied with the commitment because I thought I still had a chance to go to Australia, someone promised to find me a team there. By the time I decided to sign, the team had used up its full quota of foreign players, I will always regret this procrastination,” the regret evident in his voice.
After another attempt to go to Cyprus , which did not go down too well, and a stint with Sporting Lions back home. Musa finally decided to hang his boots in 2011. About the coaches he worked with, Musa said, “Grabowski despite his unorthodox methods, taught me to be confident, to take risks and to look for opportunities, real life skills, Luke Masomere allowed players to discover their strengths, he did not put pressure on us and Matongorere was tactically astute though unlucky with results”.
Musa also rates Godfrey Dondo and Lloyd Hlahla highly, players he played with at Masvingo United.
His advice to young players, “ Stay free from drugs, do not allow the environment you are in to overwhelm you, ..takakurawo zvinhu zvakaoma but we persevered, you have to keep looking for opportunities..” were the wise wides from the legend.
Musareka who is now based in Germany is an ambassador for YASAD an organisation which promotes sports among the homeless. Harry Redknapp and Ronald De Boer are some of the high profile personalities involved with the organisation.
What about the future, what does it hold, I asked? “ Tiri maRasta, hatityi( we are rastafarians , we are not afraid) , we have to keep on moving.” Words full of hope, indeed in life , it is important to keep on moving!