By Ellina Mhlanga
They had never met before and a call-up to the senior national football team was all the England-born star needed to get connected to his family in Zimbabwe for the first time.
Tendayi Darikwa was born 27 years ago in England and had not found an opportunity to meet his paternal aunt Mary-Emma Kumbirai Darikwa. Having spent all his life in Nottingham, England, Tendayi made his first visit to Zimbabwe in 2017 after a call-up to the Warriors as the drive to include players with Zimbabwean roots based in Europe started to yield results.
Mary-Emma Darikwa, who stays in Harare’s high-density of Mbare, describes her first meeting with her nephew as one of the best moments in her life.
“We first met in 2017 when he came to play for the Warriors. That was our first physical meeting. Then he came back last year and this year again for the national team games. But over the years we had been in touch and they used to send us pictures.
“When he came for the first time, he actually called and told us that he was at Rainbow Towers, so we went there to meet him.
“When we got there he had gone to his room, so when he came back where we were waiting for him, he just started jumping and he was asked by (Warriors manager) Wellington Mpandare if he knew us and he said these are my relatives. They are look-alikes with my father.
“I was really happy, overjoyed because we used to talk over the phone and they would send their pictures but we had not met in person before. I was with my mother and my son Tino, so we were really overjoyed.
“His call-up to the Warriors was something huge for us because it’s something positive for our family name. We feel so proud and a lot has changed since he first came home. We feel so close and it’s a perfect family reunion,” said Mary-Emma.
Although distance has kept them apart, she says they have always heard about their nephew’s passion for football since he was young.
And when she speaks about Tendayi, one can see from the smile and glow on her face that she is a proud aunt.
“He has always been passionate about football. The interest was always there because as early as seven years he was already playing football, we would communicate with his father saying he has taken him for practice. So the signs were there. We wish him the best in his career.
“His father was also good at football, but he never showed serious interest. But we had our younger brother, Tendayi’s uncle David (also Tendayi’s middle name), he used to play football. He played for Dynamos juniors but then decided to pursue his academics.
“He used to play with Clayton Munemo, they went to the same school at Mufakose High 1. So I can say it’s something that runs in the family although most of them did not really pursue it’’.
The family have made it a point to go and watch the Warriors matches when Tendayi comes for national team duty. On the other hand, the Warriors defender makes sure he visits his aunt whenever he comes to Zimbabwe.
“We always go to watch him playing when he comes here. We went for the DRC game and on March 24 (when Zimbabwe played Congo) we were there together with his grandmother. As a family we are proud of him, it brings joy to us to watch him playing.
“He also comes here in Mbare to visit us and we spend lots of time together. Most of the time we talk about football even when he is in camp we send him messages just to encourage him. He is very friendly, humble and always interacts with people around here when he comes.”
Tendai “Ndado” Mupeta, a Dynamos and Warriors fan who stays in the same neighbourhood with Darikwa’s aunt near Mbare National’s popular Jabulani Stores area just opposite Beatrice Cottages, said many folks who stay around there were surprised to see the Nottingham Forest defender visiting his aunt every time he comes for national team duties.
“The first time I saw Tendayi Darikwa coming out from his aunt’s place I indicated to them that the England-based Warriors defender was in our neighbourhood and they thought I was bluffing.
“And they finally realised that I was telling them the truth when he (Tendayi Darikwa) started interacting with us and they could tell that he was not a local lad because of his English accent.
“Many couldn’t believe that he would come down here and sleep at his aunt’s place in Mbare . . . Imagine one coming all the way from England and sleep at some kind of a match-box house here in Mbare.
“A lot of people from this area just couldn’t believe it. But Tendayi Darikwa is just a humble and a down to earth man and he was fascinated to see the new surroundings in this old high-density suburb of Mbare and its dusty streets . . . We were all really chaffed to have him as our guest,” Mupeta said.
But unbeknown to Tendayi Darikwa, Mbare National has produced a number of talented players who went on to play for both the Young Warriors and the Warriors and these include Dynamos captain Edward Sadomba who was born and grew up in Muchirahondo Street together with his former teammate at DeMbare goalkeeper Tichaona Diya.
Muchirahondo Street is just a stone’s throw away from the house where Tendayi Darikwa’s aunt lives.
Mbare National is also the home of former Black Aces dribbling wizard Benard “Machipisa” Dzingayi, ex-Dynamos centre striker Boniface “Achimwene” Kabwe, former Black Aces skilful midfielder Moses “Gwejegweje” Chasweka and his younger brother Alex “Chola” Chasweka.
Another former Black Aces player Innocent “Mbazo” Musapenda also hails from the same area in Yotamu Way together with the ex-Premiership side’s goalkeeper Leon “Tingo” Linyama, father to former Dynamos and Black Rhinos defender Sydney.
And by the way, the country’s most popular club — Dynamos — have their roots firmly in Mbare. The Herald.