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Timothy Dzingira Chirozvani on football, juju and diaspora blues

By Lot Chitakasha

The name Timothy Dzingira now known as Chirozvani might not be a household name in the Zimbabwe football fraternity. Ask any ordinary fan to mention the top footballers of the1990’s and early 2000 and Chirozvani will be lucky to get a mention. It is like that, there are players who make a contribution but slip through the radar without so much attention being given to them.

Timothy Chirozvani
Timothy Chirozvani

The list is long and that will call for a separate article, unsung heroes I call them. Timothy did service for Black Rhinos, Darryn T, Tongogara, flamboyant Blackpool and Caps United. He could have played for Amazulu but the loan move fell through. For such a player to rarely get a mention in the football discourse of our nation is an anomaly which this article will seek to correct.

But how did it all begin, who is Timothy Dzingira Chirozvani? Timothy was born in Chirumumanzu in 1973 and started his football career at the local primary school. During the school holidays, he would travel to Harare, to the football hotbed of Mbare. Here, he would play for the Black Rhinos juniors.

For his secondary education, he moved to St. Peters in Mbare and this gave him the chance to pursue his football career seriously. The well established Black Rhinos junior structures from the under 14,16 and 18 level allowed him to develop his football skills in a professional set up.

“I have Black Rhinos to thank, their junior structures allowed me to mix up with top juniors such as Edzai Kasinauyo, Allan Gwaze, Jomo Kembo, Owen Mtkwa and Lameck Lazaro to mention a few,” Timothy recalls with pride. It was however very tough for him to break into the first team because there were many good players ahead of him.

Players such as Nesbert Saruchera, Cosmos Kabote, Manilo Mutimba blocked his path into the first team. The best option was for him to move and this he did in 1992, joining Darryn T.

Darryn T was a big step forward for Timothy. “My coach in the reserve side was Mudhara Chita Antonio, he took one look at me and one session later he decided that I was good enough for the first team.” Timothy pays tribute to senior players John Phiri, Wonder Timoti, Raphael Kawondera and other junior players like Alois Bunjira, Stewart Murisa, Norman Mapeza and Lloyd Chitembwe who made him feel welcome. This build up his confidence and he is proud that he played in the John Madzima Trophy which they unfortunately lost to Highlanders.

The competition at Darryn T was stiff and it was difficult to command a regular jersey. “I was developing itchy feet, I guess I am like that, the desire to move is in my DNA. By a stroke of luck, a senior army officer watched one of our training sessions. He was on a scouting mission for Tongogara FC. He was impressed and asked me to join.

The promise of a job, a monthly salary and winning bonuses turned my head, I did not hesitate and the next day I had packed my bags for Kwekwe.” This was the beginning of long fruitful relationship with Tongogara, a relationship which saw him captaining the team for three years from 1995 to 1997. At Tongogara, Timothy partnered Charles Muroyiwa in the heart of defence.

“We had a good understanding with Charle, in fact he is the one who gave me the captaincy, he was getting on in years and he decided that I was ready to lead the team. I gladly accepted.”

Tongogara were a very competitive outfit with good players such as Ishmael Meki, Nelson Kuretu, Nedson Muchuchu, Malvern Matselele, Oliver Juro and a young Brighton Chandisaita. The coaches, Thomas Chipembere and Peter Mazarire later Benedict “Grinder” Moyo were good coaches who tried their best to keep the club afloat. However, because of the stiff competition in the league, Tongogara were always fighting relegation, this had a toll on Timothy , he decided to move again.

Flamboyant Blackpool was his next port of call. The club was under the tutorship of Ashton “Papa” Nyazika who was quickly impressed by Timothy’s dedication that he partnered him in defence with Clifton “ Somalia” Kadurira. Timothy also speaks highly of Joel Shambo who coached him at the club, “A great man, always encouraging and giving tips about how to improve, death robbed us of a great coach…” he said with sadness written all over his face. He also captained the club for a season.

Zimbabwe football is replete with stories of juju use. It was Memory Mucherahowa who lifted the lid on this taboo subject. Any truth to this? I asked Timothy. He chuckled and with a knowing smile, he said “At Tongogara, we would go up Gomo raMasare, that mountain made popular by the Zig Zag Band, for some rituals. On our way back, we were told not to look back, this was near impossible in a team of twenty five players, someone would look back, when we then lost a match we would blame the one who looked back…”

“At Blackpool FC, the Directors did not believe in juju. One day the players said we were lacking in luck and asked me to talk to the Directors. They wanted extra help to change our luck. Chris Sambo did not protest, he went away and brought a weird looking item for us to use. Tell the guys not to open it, just rub it on your forehead, we did and surprise, surprise , we beat Hwange in their fortress, at the Colliery Stadium.”

So the juju worked, I wondered? “That is only part of the story, after the match I wanted to give the juju back to Mr. Sambo. He said no, keep it and bring at training on Tuesday. Out of curiosity, I decided to open the item. What do I find in there? Some used oil, I laughed to myself, Mr. Sambo had pulled a fast one on us! The result had confirmed one thing to me, juju is only for the placebo effect, we believed it and it worked but there was no juju.. what an eye opener for me…!” he said with that streetwise look of his, the look of a man who has seen it all in football.

After his stint at Blackpool, Timothy moved to Caps United who were then under the tutorship of Nelson Matongorere. “Matongorere had vast knowledge of the game, he was very tactical. I rate him highly together with Benedict Moyo, they were very technical but results did not always come their way.. but vanotaura bhora (they talk football).”

Timothy is happy that he played in one cup final at Caps United, a final they lost to the Willard Khumalo coached Lancashire Steel. “That final still haunts me, I was at fault for the first goal scored by Luke Petros, I should have done better…”

Timothy talks about his strengths as a player. “I was good on one versus one situations, a good tackler and a good leader, I was a good motivator. A good defender must always talk…” Any regrets?

“Failure to represent the Nation, I was called for the under 23 squads but never got game time, I do not think the coaches gave me a fair crack of the whip..”

His disappointment is evident. Timothy would have joined mega rich Amazulu owned by Delma Lupepe but the army did not allow further loan moves. He went back Tongogara but received a call from a cousin in the UK who invited him to come over.

“I jumped at the offer, I later realised that there were many challenges. I had to regularise my papers, it took so long and life was tough. I am now settled and I am happy that I made the move, I have improved my life, my wife and daughters are happy, it is all that matters.”

He has also joined hands with former Caps United legends among them Joe Mugabe to form the Caps United Legends UK.

“Our goal is to revive junior football, we owe it to the youngsters to do this. This is how we developed, we cannot abandon the junior structures.”

His passion on this matter shines through as he says this. I cannot agree with him more! Timothy also thinks that a former footballer should be at the helm at Zifa but will support whoever is leading.

“Football should be the winner…” he stresses.

Indeed, his name might not resonate with many, but his football resume cannot be doubted. Above all, he is still working hard to improve the game and for this, the man deserves our respect.