Success, history, prison . . . it’s been a full package for Chirambadare
By Tadious Manyepo
Ernest Chirambadare should, ordinarily, be enjoying his retirement. After all, he is just one of two Zimbabwean footballers to touch the heavens in the two CAF inter-club competitions.
Masimba Dinyero is the other.
They are the only ones who featured in the two most successful adventures by Zimbabwean clubs in both the CAF Champions League and the Cup Winners Cup (now called the Confederation Cup).
Goalkeeper Chirambadare and utility player Dinyero first helped debutantes Blackpool reach the semi-finals of the 1995 Cup Winners Cup before losing to Algerian giants, and eventual winners, JS Kabylie on the away goals rule.
At that stage, the campaign represented the furthest any Zimbabwean club had gone in the CAF inter-club competitions.
Then, the duo was part of the Dynamos team which reached the final of the Champions League in 1998 where they lost 2-4 to ASEC Mimosas of Côte d’Ivoire.
However, despite a career that went the distance, including playing for the national team, Chirambadare still has one regret.
His dream to play for Highlanders never came to pass.
For 13 years, he lived in the United Kingdom before returning home to settle in Marondera.
It was in UK, at Heathrow International Airport, in late 199, where everything changed for him.
“For me, unlike others with a Dynamos background, Highlanders was a natural choice,” Chirambadare said.
“You know, this is a team I really wanted to play for before hanging up my gloves.
“The atmosphere, which prevails when that team is playing, is so pulsating and I wanted to be part of that.
“My sixth sense always insisted that I needed to play for Bosso.
“But, well, it wasn’t written in the stars, maybe.”
He left for the UK, saying he intended to stay for a month, and come back to play for Bosso.
Instead, he ended up staying there for 13 years.
“When I left Dynamos, in late 1999 going to the UK, I wanted to stay there for just one month,” he said.
“I even told that country’s department of immigration official that I wanted to spend a month.
“But, somehow, I was given six months and that was too tempting.
“I kept telling myself that I would return home next month until those six months expired.”
After starring against the Bulawayo giants, when he had only been entrusted with keeping goal for Black Aces because Emmanuel “Shumba” Nyahuma had been injured in 1989, Chirambadare attracted Bosso’s interests.
Four years later, Highlanders made their move but Chirambadare opted for the ambitious, newly-formed Blackpool side which would make history in 1995, when becoming the first team in Zimbabwe to reach the semi-finals of the African Cup Winners Cup.
“With better management, I would have definitely gone to Bosso.
“But, remember, we didn’t have player managers then.
“I was still very young and I elected to be part of Blackpool when they bought the Black Mambas franchise.
“I had come close to signing a contract with Highlanders but I never had any regrets as our Blackpool side went on to write an intriguing piece in the history of the continent’s second-tier tournament.
“The terrain was so rugged but we only capitulated at the hands of JS Kabylie of Algeria in the reverse fixture played in Algiers, otherwise we did very well.”
He would soon join his favourite club, Dynamos.
It is at the Glamour Boys that Chirambadare achieved remarkable success.
He battled stiff competition from Gift “Umbro” Muzadzi, the late George Mandizvidza and Obey Murefu and by the time they reached the CAF Champions League final, he was the first-choice keeper.
“When I got a call from Dynamos, it was like a dream,” he said. “This was my favourite team and who could resist an offer from a team they grew up supporting?
“I had to work extra hard because the competition was stiff.
“I managed to secure my place and the rest, as they say, is history.
“We came within 90 minutes of winning the CAF Champions League against ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast who only beat us 4-2 in that ill-tempered second leg tie in Abidjan when a lot, including the headbutting of our captain Memory Mucherahowa, happened before kick-off.
“I am glad, in that very team, we also had Dinyero, whom I had played with at Blackpool.”
The Glamour Boys wouldn’t repeat their exploits in 1999 and fissures started to emerge as the side bowed out in the mini league phase.
Chirambadare and a few others, including Dinyero, decided to quit and for the goalkeeper, this was the right time to join Bosso.
But, instead of playing for a Highlanders side, which would win four consecutive league titles on the trot, Chirambadare found himself in a UK prison after the expiry of his legal stay in that country.
He was only saved by The Herald’s story from further languishing in jail as the article prompted UK authorities to look into the matter.
“There is nothing called bad publicity. That story headlined ‘Chirambadare languishes in a UK prison’ written by Robson Sharuko somehow saved me,” he says.
“The authorities were prompted to look at it since I had a good football profile and I was subsequently freed.
“But, look, life in the diaspora is not that rosy, ask anyone.
“Without my family close by, and without sufficient money, I kept on telling myself I would be home soon until 2013 when I finally returned.”
For Chirambadare, who grew up in Harare’s Lochnivar suburb and used to navigate through a thick forest notorious for muggers to train with Black Aces, his failure to fulfil his dream of playing for Highlanders haunts him to this day.
He is now staying in Marondera as he claims to have avoided Harare “because life is as fast as it was in the UK.”
He says he is planning to team up with his brother, Stanley “Samora” Chirambadare, to run an academy in Mufakose as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted. The Herald