Kawondera’s life has been an up and down affair since he made his first breakthrough into Europe as an 18-year-old boy from Chitungwiza.
The former Warriors striker admits he made some mistakes in life but is more focused on the future.
Now 36, and living a secluded life in Ruwa with his four kids, Kawondera was full of life when The Sunday Mail Sport visited him last week.
“My kids bathed early today in preparation for you guys, I think they are dirty now and not fit for cameras,” joked Kawondera as he ushered our crew into his house.
Kawondera no longer spots those trademark dreadlocks he wore at the peak of his athletic powers when his football talent took him to Poland, Cyprus and the 2006 AFCON finals in Egypt.
But the smile is still there and his face glowed even more when he introduced us to his first born child Nasir, a 15-year-old boy who is doing Form Three at Allan Wilson High School in Harare.
“That one (Nasir) is also a good player, watch out for the next Peter Ndlovu,” said Kawondera who also has three daughters Shantel (13), Emmanuela (6) and Gabriella (3).
“You have gone quiet Shingie, what have you been up to?” was naturally one of the first questions we posed to the former Darryn T star player.
“There’s a lot of pressure out there so I just thought it was wise to relax with my family at home. I have been here at home, as you can see. Obviously I am neither dead nor mad!” exclaimed Kawondera.
“You see, people have negative thoughts about our lifestyles as footballers. During my career I would come back home for two or three weeks and I would spend most of that time in clubs drinking and having fun.
“That’s all what people remember about me and that’s why some say I have now gone mad or I am dead. That’s why I decided to chill at home waiting for the next move.”
What’s that next move?
“A lot of opportunities are coming up, just yesterday (last Wednesday) DC (Darlington Choto) Jussy (Justice Majabvi) and Tinashe (Nengomasha) were here and we discussed a lot of projects,” he said.
“It’s too early to reveal some of the things but we have identified a place here in Ruwa where we want to start an Academy.
“You see, there’s a lot of talent in Zimbabwe but there’s no more junior football. It’s like these boys are going straight from school into the top flight.
“We were embarrassed at the recently held Cosafa Under 17 tournament and to me that was a wakeup call. We need to invest in the juniors if we are to have a better future. Every PSL team should have junior teams.”
The Chitungwiza bred Kawondera is a beneficiary of a sound junior program that churned out scores of young talent from the dormitory town under the watch of Polish mentor Wieslaw Grabowski.
Norman Mapeza, Lloyd Chitembwe, Edelbert Dinha, Gift Muzadzi, Stewart Murisa and Alois Bunjira are some of the names that rose to prominence thanks to Grabowski’s passion for junior players.
“Whatever I did in football, I owe it all to Grabowski,” a thankful Kawondera said.
“I remember how it took only five minutes for Grabowski to identify my talent when I used to turn out for Cone Textiles in Chitungwiza in the 1990s.
He (Grabowski) would come to Chitungwiza to watch our games and I remember that day he picked myself, Elliot (Matsika) and Musareka (Jenitala). “We were taken to St Tropez Flats in Eastlea where it was all football from 8 am to 5 pm… that’s how I ended up in Europe,” recalled Kawondera.
He went to Europe as a 17-year-old, stayed in Poland for six months before coming back home to finalise papers for his first foreign move to Polish side Gornik Zabrze.
Kawondera would go on to play in Cyprus where he featured for AEP Paphos at the recommendation of Zenzo Moyo and Joel Lupahla who were also plying their trade in that part of Europe.
“I was still a boy when I went to Europe, I also didn’t have much time with my mother who divorced my father when I was only eight.
“So I guess I lacked that motherly advice when I needed it most,” regrets Kawondera.
“But life goes on, here I am today still alive and hoping for the better. My close friends come to see me here, they help me when I am financially down. A big shout out to Edward Sadomba, he has been very helpful.”
Before we left, “Gonzo” as Kawondera is fondly known as amongst his peers, had something in his burning chest he felt he needed to spit out.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s sacking from the Warriors job after the 2017 AFCON finals. “That was unfair, they persecuted him for nothing after he had done a wonderful job. Instead of Zifa blaming him for the poor results at the finals they should have sent him for further football studies,” he said before promising to call us again for another exclusive interview. Sunday Mail.