By Munyaradzi Madzokere | NewsDay |
Benjani Mwaruwari is one of the finest football exports to emerge from the local scene. And yet interestingly, Benjani is not even his original name.
When he was born in the City of Bulawayo back in 1978, his late father Amon christened him Mpenjani, a Malawian name, but people at the birth and death registry office got it wrong and named him Benjani.
As his football star grew, he became Benjamin in Zimbabwe and South African football circles; and it was only when he joined AJ Auxerre in France that he became Benjani again.
And Benjani was loved in France just as he was also loved at Portsmouth and Manchester City in England.
The fact is that few people got his first name and surname correct. Some still call him Mwaruwaru up to today. Yet, it didn’t deter him from achieving great things in his football career.
Benjani finally cleared the air regarding his real name in an interview with South African sports caster Robert Marawa on his radio programme Legends Night at the weekend.
“My real name is Mpenjani. But you know my father is from Malawi, so the pronunciation is not that great. So when he went to get my birth certificate they thought he said Benjani. And so on my birth certificate, it’s written Benjani,” the former Warriors striker revealed.
“When I was playing in Zimbabwe, the person who was writing the team card did not look properly on my particulars and he wrote Benjamin, instead of Benjani.
“So that is where the name Benjamin came from. In Zimbabwe, everyone knew me as Benjamin and in South Africa as well,” the former Manchester City and Portsmouth forward added.
Mpenjani, which means “what do you want”, comes from the Ngoni language, which is a Bantu language of Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Affectionately known as the Undertaker, Benjani made a name for himself locally, playing for the now-defunct Air Zimbabwe Jets before joining Jomo Cosmos in South Africa. He would later move overseas to play his football for FC Zurich in Switzerland and proceeding to Auxerre, Portsmouth and Manchester City.
In Europe, he was simply known as Benjani.
“In France, it was difficult for them to pronounce my surname, it was too big for them to say Mwaruwari and my coach (at Auxerre) said this one is easy and they put Benjani on my shirt. They got it right because they saw that it was written Benjani on my documents,” Mwaruwari said.
“But those who know me from Magwegwe, where I grew up, call me Mpe. So if I meet someone and he or she calls me Mpe, I know that they know me very well,” his said.
Mwaruwari is one of the few players to have flown the Zimbabwean flag in the English top-tier league, scoring 19 goals in 70 appearances for Portsmouth over two seasons.
At Manchester City, Benjani found the net four times in 23 outings.
The 41-year-old Zimbabwean ended his football career at Bidvest Wits, South Africa, in 2014.Mwaruwari, who harbours dreams to lead Zimbabwean football one day, is currently studying towards a sports management qualification in England.
He is also pursuing his coaching badges and is halfway through his Uefa A certificate and is currently attached to former paymasters Portsmouth.