By Veronica Gwaze
The lives and careers of former Zimbabwe international and CAPS United football star Stewart “Shutto” Murisa and his late mother, Gladys, are intertwined beyond just that of a mother and son.
Without Gladys Murisa there would be no Stewart, Charles or Ngoni Murisa to talk about.
And without Gladys’ glittering netball career, there would probably be no Murisa dynasty to talk about in Zimbabwean football either.
Gladys, a former St Mary’s netball club and Zimbabwe legend, died in February 2015 after a short illness.
She gave this nation a fine striker, Stewart, who achieved a rare feat by many footballers: that of making his mark at the country’s biggest clubs – Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS.
Stewart was the first born of Gladys’ seven children.
As a child, Stewart and his siblings often accompanied their mother to her netball games, and it is through those trips that Shutto traces back his love for sport and football in particular.
Stewart’s crowning moment was to arrive in 1996 when he was voted the Soccer Star of the Year after inspiring Steve Kwashi’s CAPS to the League and Cup title.
“She used to take us to her games when we were kids, and I remember watching her play at Huruyadzo grounds in St Mary’s when I was still around five.
“I barely understood the game back then, but as I got older I learnt to love and appreciate it.
“The game gave me a life,” he recollects.
Gladys was goal defender at St Mary’s Queens, a team that was formed and coached by current senior national team manager Ledwin Dondo soon after Independence.
The now-defunct club is still the best-ever assembled team in the country’s netball history, and holds an astonishing 13-year-long unbeaten run (1985-1998).
During those days, there was no league to talk of and clubs mostly played inter-townships, social and sponsored cups, with Lyons, Sunbeam and UBM being the major promoters.
While she plied her trade on the court, Shutto began his football journey on the dusty streets of the suburb.
The 45-year-old Stewart played street football, much to the chagrin of his mother.
With time, the two found common ground, and on his first day of training at Darryn T, Gladys came to watch her son launch his professional career.
“She tried to talk me out of soccer but I would not stop. By then I was old enough to know that I loved football.
“Yes, netball had given me and my siblings an education and decent life at home, but I found love in football.
“I used to brag on the streets that I was the son of the famous netballer, and, whenever I could, I would go and watch her play,” said Stewart.
In 1993, the first netball league was formed, comprising six teams — Highlanders, Hwange, Mhangura, Black Rhinos, Zimbabwe Republic Police and St Mary’s.
Having made a name for herself, Gladys was selected to be part of the first national team for the 5th All-Africa Games hosted by Zimbabwe in 1995. By then, Shutto had also made a name for himself and was part of the Zimbabwe Under-23 squad that won silver in those All-Africa Games after finishing runners-up to Egypt in the final.
It was a rare achievement for a mother and son to wear national colours in different disciplines at the same tournament.
“It never occurred to me that I would ever play for the national soccer team, let alone do it at the same time as my mother.
“We both took part at the All-Africa Games, went to Namibia together with the national teams and I remember this other time when I was playing at Rufaro while she was at Stodart Netball Complex.”
Netball coach, Dondo, still has fond memories of the late Gladys.
“We had sponsorship challenges those days, but the players were so rich in passion, discipline and a high level of maturity,” Dondo said.
Gladys would bring her kids along, and we would take care of them while she played.
“The netball community was a family and we were always there for each other.
“We knew Stewart as a little kid and saw him and his siblings grow.
“The mother was just a star,” Dondo said. The Sunday Mail