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A DARING HOTEL ESCAPE, A SCOTTISH ADVENTURE AND A RACIST ATTACK . . . The incredible tale of the teenage footballer who disappeared from the radar

By Robson Sharuko

Munashe Gatsi bolted out of the Manchester hotel his local academy had booked for him, on the very night he arrived in England three years ago, ending any hopes his handlers had of exposing him to scouts from clubs like Watford, Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers.

CONTROVERSIAL CONNECTION . . . Munashe Gatsi, the amateur footballer who has been grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, is seen here in the dressing room of his Scottish amateur side.
CONTROVERSIAL CONNECTION . . . Munashe Gatsi, the amateur footballer who has been grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, is seen here in the dressing room of his Scottish amateur side.

Gatsi, then a teenage footballer whose plight — as an underprivileged Kuwadzana High 1 schoolboy with dreams of becoming a professional in the game — had captured the imagination of CBZ Holdings, who bankrolled his trip to England, flew to England as part of a team under the Global Sports Academy.

CBZ Holdings, the country’s financial services group, bailed Gatsi out by splashing $3 800 towards his trip to England.

Reports indicate that the total cost of the financial injection was $10 000.

This was after the then teenager sent an SOS appealing for help to enable him to showcase his talent, at a training camp in England, with the hope of getting the attention of major clubs in that country.

Reports back then suggested scouts from English Premiership sides Watford and Crystal Palace and Championship side Queens Park Rangers had shown interest in the player.

But, the reports said, the three clubs needed to have another assessment of him, playing in English conditions, before they could make a decision on whether to take him on board.

Repeated attempts to get a comment from any of the three clubs, to confirm whether they had, indeed, shown any interest in the player, as reported back then, have not yielded any responses.

However, The Herald can reveal a well-choreographed tale of deception, in which the player himself — and certainly not the local academy that organised that tour of duty to England — designed a grand strategy to deceive the sponsors who bankrolled his trip and the country that sympathised with his plight.

We can reveal that:
Although Gatsi knit together a compelling tale, in which he convinced everyone he wanted a helping hand to showcase his talent in England, and possibly become a professional footballer, he had seemingly long planned he would simply “disappear” into the United Kingdom once he got there.

Even though he was a first-time visitor to Britain, the way he found a way to negotiate around the country, once he abandoned his Manchester hotel the night he arrived in that country, showed there were possibly some people who gave him a helping hand in his scheme.

He never wanted to be part of that training camp, which the others attended for about a week, where those who had planned it claimed would attract some top scouts, but had long planned to deceive a sponsor — who felt obliged to help the cause of an underprivileged teenage footballer realise his dream.

Gatsi left his bag of clothes on the bed in his hotel room, the night he abandoned his colleagues in Manchester that night three years ago, because he didn’t want to raise any alarm among his colleagues that he was planning to flee from them.

Those who had organised the trip raised his ‘’disappearance’’ with those who had sponsored him, on their return home, to try and clear their name and also highlight that they were not part of that elaborate scheme given, all the other players who went on that training camp, returned home.

The organisers of that trip feel they were also given a raw deal, because of the negativity such an issue was likely to provoke if it came out in public, given all the publicity and goodwill that had accompanied Gatsi’s journey to England, including the coming on board of a powerful corporate sponsor.

Gatsi resurfaced in the Scottish city of Glasgow, where he kept a very low profile, and registered his Facebook account using the letters of his name and surname drafted in reverse — Shenamu Tsiga.

He claims he did that because he was trying to avoid friends who could bombard him with pleas for help once they knew he was now staying in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, a player who left the country amid a media blitz that he had attracted the attention of such heavyweight clubs like Crystal Palace, Watford and Queens Park Rangers, ended up playing for a Glasgow amateur side, Shettleston Juniors Under-21s, where he remains a part of the team.

Last December, Gatsi was the subject of a racist attack, an incident he claimed occurred while he was heading home from training.

A 14-year-old Scottish schoolboy was banned from entering a town amid claims he slashed a man, named as Kieran Brady, in the face in the street of Paisley in Scotland in a Boxing Day knife attack.
Prosecutors also claimed he stole a mobile phone.

The same teenager was also accused of behaving in a threatening and abusive way towards Gatsi as he walked along Galsgow Road, in Paisley, while the attacker was in possession of a knife and stalking him.

Yesterday, Gatsi gave his side of the story.

“I am still Munashe Gatsi it was only on Facebook that I use another name but nothing has changed,’’ he said.

‘’I am even surprised (with reports) that I applied for asylum, which is not true, the thing is I was scouted by a team which is based in Glasgow (and) that is how I ended up at this side.

“I am still trying to settle and I am a full-time footballer and I would not like to see my name being dragged into controversy.’’ But how Gatsi ended up in Scotland, when the training camp was south in England, is something that only he can explain while he also says he had a change of plans on the day he arrived in England.

He confirmed he was the man mentioned in a Scottish court in December last year, as the subject of a racist attack, and says he never drew a plan to dupe those who sponsored him to go to the United Kingdom because he still believes he can one day become a footballer of note.

He has never been home since that fateful trip three years ago. The Herald