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From Mucheke to Prague…Costa’s dance with the international game

By Langton Nyakwenda

The special phone call remains etched in his mind, 13 years later. It was a call that changed his career for good.

Dillibe Onyeama was registered to go to Eton at birth
Costa Nhamoinesu

Costa Nhamoinesu was aboard a Mhunga bus on his way back to Harare after his contract with Masvingo United had expired at the end of 2007, when he received a call from Prince Matore.

Nhamoinesu was 21 then, and that was to be the beginning of his European career, which has seen him win numerous accolades in the Czech Republic’s top-flight league.

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Nhamoinesu won his second Czech Cup medal after his side Sparta Praha beat FC Slovan Liberec 2-1 in the final at Stadion u Nisy in Liberec on July 1.

The 34-year-old defender now has four medals, including a championship accolade, since joining the Czech Republic giants from Polish side Zaglebie Lubin in 2013.

And as his career reaches the twilight zone, Nhamoinesu is pondering about his future, but he is not yet ready to divulge his plans.

“I am still waiting to get some official details; then I can have a better vision of what’s happening and what is to come,” Nhamoinesu told The Sunday Mail Sport last week.

While his future remains a subject of speculation, Nhamoinesu’s football journey has always remained an amazing tale.

By his own admission, Nhamoinesu’s football journey took an intriguing turn after receiving that call from Matore.

“Wieslaw Grabowski wanted a left-back, so I suggested Costa (Nhamoinesu), who was playing for Masvingo United.

“He (Grabowski) then tasked me to look for this player,” revealed Matore last week.

“I called Costa and he told me he was on his way to Harare aboard a Mhunga bus. He also told me he was out of contract.

“He was surprised and also happy when I told him that we needed to meet in town before he even went to his base in Chitungwiza,” added Matore.

“We met and I took him straight to Grabowski, who assessed him in his garden lawn for a few minutes. Grabowski told Costa he had a super left, but his right one was too weak.

“Grabowski then gave Costa a ball and an exercise programme for the whole of December 2007. One month later, the right leg was kicking like his left and Grabowski told him he was ready for Poland,” said Matore, who is now assistant coach at Chicken Inn.

Nhamoinesu, who snubbed CAPS United for Grabowski’s DT Africa United when he left Masvingo, was flown to Poland in March 2008.

A huge surprise awaited him.

He found out that the team Grabowski had arranged for him was a mere fifth-tier side that played more of social football.

But with benefit of hindsight, Nhamoinesu would later realise this was the springboard he needed in Europe.

“What I remember most is that the team, Wisla Ustroniaka, was popular because it had three black players.

“That is how I was noticed by Zaglebie Lubin, a team that was playing First Division in 2009. Zaglebie Lubin were then promoted into the elite Ekstraklasa,” Nhamoinesu told The Sunday Mail Sport in an interview back in September 2015.

After switching from Grabowski, Nhamoinesu engaged the services of Sport Invest International football agency, who brokered the move to Sparta Praha in 2013.

A bright student, who attained nine points at Advance Level, Nhamoinesu almost quit the game at the end of 2005 to pursue his childhood dream.

He had always dreamt of becoming a teacher since his childhood days in the rural area of Chihota, near Seke.

He retained this dream throughout his secondary school education at Seke High in Chitungwiza and Milton High in Bulawayo.

Nhamoinesu ended up at Milton High on a scholarship programme, courtesy of Amazulu, who signed the player when he was still doing his Advanced Level studies in 2005.

When Amazulu were relegated at the end of 2005, Nhamoinesu found himself at crossroads.

Quitting football and enrolling for a teaching course was uppermost in his mind.

But then another call came in; this time from Luke Masomere.

Masomere signed Nhamoinesu soon after his appointment as Masvingo United coach in 2006.

“I can say I groomed Costa. He struggled a bit when he joined Masvingo United, but he was someone who wanted to learn,” Masomere told The Sunday Mail Sport.

“He was a very disciplined and fine young man. In no time he started showing good signs. He had good height for a defender and soon added more qualities.

“He proved his potency in attack at an early age. He would overlap and score beautiful goals.

“I am very proud that I worked with Costa, who went on to do well in Poland and the Czech Republic after that stint with Masvingo United.

“I am proud of Costa’s achievements and I wish him all the best,” says Masomere, who is still unattached after he was fired from Manica Diamonds last season.

Nhamoinesu had a brief stint at Amazulu, but in those few months at Usuthu, he impressed teammate and senior player Ronald “Gidiza”, a midfield magician during his heyday.

“He was a hardworking young man. Always on time for training and working overtime most of the times,” Sibanda told The Sunday Mail Sport from his base in Bulawayo yesterday.

“Costa always listened to his seniors. To me, it is not a surprise he has reached this far,” added Sibanda.

Nhamoinesu won the league and cup double with Sparta Praha in 2014.

His international profile kept on growing, but the dreadlocked star was conspicuous by his absence for national duty, despite numerous call-ups by various Zimbabwe national team coaches.

He finally made his Warriors debut at 29, under Kalisto Pasuwa, when Zimbabwe drew 1-1 against Guinea in a 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier at Rufaro on September 6 2015.

Zimbabwe qualified for the 2017 AFCON finals, with Nhamoinesu marshalling a back four that included Elisha Muroiwa, Onisimor Bhasera and Hardlife Zvirekwi.

“It was a privilege playing alongside a player of Costa’s calibre,” Zvirekwi said.

“He was a very humble guy despite the level he had played. He was a leader, a commander and a very brave player.

“He could influence the Warriors’ defence by bringing in rock-solid stability and direction for us at the back.

“He could also influence the result of the game by also scoring crucial goals for the team,” added Zvirekwi.

Nhamoinesu was born in Hwedza and never had the privilege of growing up with a father by his side.

His father was always on the move.

“I never really got to know my dad, even up to now I don’t know his whereabouts,” he told The Sunday Mail Sport back in 2015.

His tough upbringing made him stronger and brought out the fighter in him. Nhamoinesu has always been at the forefront of the fight against racism in football.

He castigated racists in a recent tweet after his team had progressed to the Czech Cup final.

“Good feeling to progress to Cup final. But sad to hear monkey chants during the game. Sport has no colour. We are all human beings,” he tweeted on June 18.

As he approaches 35, Nhamoinesu can look back at a largely successful career that was built on experiences gained from childhood.

It is a career that began at Seke High 1 in Chitungwiza, where Nhamoinesu played alongside the likes of former CAPS United link man Masset Zengeni, former Triangle defender Blessing Chimwamuchere and Heavens Chinyama.

It all changed for Nhamoinesu after Seke High reached the 2002 Coca Cola NASH finals.

That is how he was spotted by Amazulu before moving to Masvingo United en-route to Poland and the Czech Republic. Sunday News