By Langton Nyakwenda
A record that has stood for a decade, a horrific knee injury that saw him play for 12 years through the pain barrier and a nickname that has stuck with him since his secondary school days at Churchill.
This, in a nutshell, sums up a football career that promised much for Norman “Lumumba” Maroto.
For 10 years, Maroto has held on to a special Premier Soccer League record.
ln a local Premiership that is reeling from an appalling dearth of sharpshooters, he is the last player to score more than 20 goals in a season.
Maroto banged in 22 goals for the now defunct Gunners in 2010 to clinch the Golden Boot as the then defending champions finished fourth behind winners Motor Action, Dynamos and Highlanders.
The latest Golden Boot winner, Clive Augusto, scored 14 goals before departing for ABSA Premiership side Maritzburg midway through the 2019 season.
That Augusto’s mid-season tally was not surpassed is a clear indication of the awful status of Premier Soccer League strikers.
Four years after retiring from the game, Maroto, who is now 36 years old and is heading the communications department at the Football Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ), still talks a lot about the 2010 season.
He also still recalls what he thinks is the best goal of his near 15-year career in the top flight.
“It’s nice to be recognised for your individual efforts, I feel honoured to still hold that special record of scoring more than 20 goals in a season. Ten years is not a joke,” Maroto told The Sunday Mail Sport last week.
“A striker’s life is all about goals and you are only remembered for that. Some goals were more important because I scored them in very difficult games.
“I scored some of the goals in friendly matches but if a goal is beautiful it doesn’t matter which game it was. As for me, the most special goal I scored was the one for Gunners when they were playing against the mighty Al Ahly at Rufaro in 2010,” revealed Maroto.
He struck the solitary goal in the 23rd minute as Gunners stunned African giants, Al Ahly, in a CAF Champions League first round match at Rufaro on March 20, 2010.
“Playing at the highest level of African club football is something that I will forever cherish. I will also remain grateful to Dynamos for giving me the opportunity to play in the PSL,” says Maroto.
Maroto broke into the Premier Soccer League in 2001 at the age of 17.
He became one of the leading lights of the famed Dynamos’ Kidznet project in 2002 and was part of an emerging cast of talented footballers from Churchill High. These included the gifted Samson Choruwa, Eddie Mashiri, Nyasha Chazika and Cephas Chimedza.
Trymore Mutisi, Leo Kurauzvione, Esau Amisi and Tapfumaneyi Gweshe (late) were also part of the famed Kidznet project.
The youthful players were introduced gradually into a Dynamos system that had ageing players, most of whom had featured in the 1998 CAF Champions League final.
DeMbare legend Memory Mucherahowa, Stewart Murisa, Lenny Gwata and Chamu Musanhu were still part of the set-up when Maroto was thrown into the fray by then coach David George.
“It was a great privilege to play with so many champions and so many great people. I learnt a lot from those legends,” Maroto said.
“My teammates in the Kidznet project were extraordinary. We played together from the Under-11s, right up to the senior team.
“We had a lot of fun on and off the pitch. We had a great time in training, there you could see the elegance of a relaxed Samson Choruwa doing his super stuff. That guy was awesome, arguably one of the finest players I have ever seen play.
“Football unites. Players get to spend more time together and become family. Though we don’t talk as much as we used to do in our playing days, we are still in constant communication.”
However, Maroto’s career was blighted by a knee injury suffered during a 2003 pre-season camp with Dynamos.
“I just landed awkwardly during training and that was it,” revealed Maroto.
“I had a knee surgery and returned to action towards the end of that season but that knee never fully recovered. I then retired in 2015.”
Maroto moved from Dynamos to Buymore in 2005 before settling at Gunners, where he won his only championship medal in 2009.
Moses “Bambo” Chunga was coach of that Gunners side, whose squad included the likes of David Rediyoni, Willard Katsande, Rahmson Zhuwawu, Ali Sadiki, Tongai Magwendere, Qadr Amini, Artwell Nyamiwa, Patrick Makuvaza, Ishmael Lawe, Tapiwa Mangezi and Cliff Sekete.
“It’s nice to be recognised for your individual efforts by people in football, but the team’s success must come first and that’s how we did it in 2009 with Gunners.
“We were a united group of players, determined to defy the odds,” Maroto said.
“Nowadays I feel like there is a lot of individualism in the game. People don’t talk about the collective dimension of the game.
“They only talk about the goalscorer and forget to talk about how that goal was constructed, how a phase started.”
Maroto also gave his own thoughts on why current top-flight strikers are no longer as lethal as yesteryear goal poachers.
“Football has evolved, some teams have been transformed by a desire to imitate the passing style of Pep Guardiola’s groundbreaking Barcelona side.
“Some are opting to play with false nines and false number 10s. Unfortunately for a lot of clubs, it just does not work.
“Football is about goals. One day I would love to see a striker scoring over 20 goals. This comes through a lot of work.
“In football you also need to listen to advice. Football is a game that brutally tests the minds and bodies of even the strongest players.
“Throughout my career I reached out to others for guidance, direction and support as an integral part of my support system.
“The pay-off was big. I have learned how important it is to give back by sharing the knowledge and experience with others. Even now, I still get advice because we learn every day,” said Maroto.
But how did the nickname “Lumumba” come about?
“Back at Churchill, some people were setting up cameras to shoot a film at our school. I had heard on the radio that a film about the former DR Congo prime minister Patrice Lumumba was being shot at our school.
“My schoolmates were not aware and I had to explain it to them, that’s how the nickname has stuck with me.”
2010 – Norman Maroto (Gunners) 22 goals
2011 – Roderick Mutuma (Dynamos) 14 goals
2012 – Nelson Maziwisa (Shabanie Mine) 18 goals
2013 – Tendai Ndoro (Chicken Inn) 18 goals
2014 – Charles Sibanda (Highlanders) and Kuda Musharu (How Mine), 12 goals each
2015 – Knox Mutizwa (Highlanders) 14 goals
2016 – Leonard Tsipa (CAPS United) 11 goals
2017 – Dominic Chungwa (CAPS United) 17 goals
2018 – Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum) 17 goals
2019 – Clive Augusto (Chicken Inn) 14 goals. The Sunday Mail