By Langton Nyakwenda
The most trending story in Tanzania today might be the imminent general elections which are set for Wednesday, but to some, especially in Dar es Salaam, Azam FC’s blistering start to the country’s Premier League is the talk of the nation’s largest city.
For some, like those taxi operators who now have Prince Dube’s posters on their vehicles, the Zimbabwean striker’s explosive arrival in Dar es Salaam has generated a lot of interest.
Azam FC have a 100 percent record in their opening seven matches of the 2020-2021 Vodacom Premier League, the first time they have achieved that feat in five years, and the main actor in that script has been Dube.
With six league goals in seven matches plus four assists, the Zimbabwean striker is the hottest player in the Tanzanian top-flight and one of the most trending footballers across African leagues. The club’s fans have already christened him the “Smiling Killer”.
“I have had a great start to life in Tanzania, people like me here in Dar es Salaam. Some taxis have placards for me and I even have a new nickname. ‘They now call me the Smiling Killer,” the 23-year-old Dube told The Sunday Mail Sport from his base.
From the prince of Highlanders, Zimbabwe’s oldest football kingdom, Dube is transforming himself into a king in Dar es Salaam, whose population is over six million.
Most of those people now know the name Prince Dube, as the former Bosso star has been making football headlines in Tanzania.
“It’s a great feeling for me to do these things in a short time,” said Dube, ahead of his club’s clash with Mtibwa Sugar at Jamhuri Stadium in Morogoro tomorrow.
“Whenever I get a chance to play, I always try to do something and I think I am getting all the support here.
“But it’s not all about Prince Dube, credit goes to everyone in the team. The goal is always to help my team win more games. It’s all about the team.”
Dube’s background is spurring him on.
He lost his father Danny in 2006 when he was only in Grade Four and at some point, after completing his Grade Seven, Dube temporarily stopped attending school because there was no money for fees.
However, his football talent was never in doubt even as he proceeded to Somvubu Secondary school in rural Inyathi, Matabeleland North, when tuition fees were finally secured.
Football was the only hope and Dube knew it.
“My background spurs me on. I grew up in a tough environment. I lost my father when I was still young and at some point played Division Two football after failing trials with Highlanders senior team.
“I get motivated when I look back at those years. There is no going back. Now is the time to work hard and rise.
“Sadly, my father is not here to see me play. I am sure he would be proud of me.
“He was a big fan of Highlanders and that inspired me to do well for Bosso. I am doing all this for him,” said Dube.
Dube was voted the 2019 Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year second runner-up after a stellar finish to the season in which he literally carried Highlanders on his shoulders.
That run saw him cement his position in Zimbabwe’s African Nations Championships (CHAN) squad.
His four goals helped Zimbabwe to qualify for the finals which will be staged in Cameroon in January. Following his blistering start in the Tanzanian league, many football pundits are now tipping Dube for a more prominent role for the Warriors, who play Algeria in back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in November.
“It will be great to come for national duty. I always want to do the best for my country. Playing for my nation is an honour and if I am called up, I hope to do my best.
“To the Warriors fans, I would like to say I love you all, if I get a chance to play I will do my best. And to the Bosso fans, wow, I miss you so much, but in life sometimes you have to move on. I say thank you for the massive support. Yes, a lot is happening for me, but I remain the same old Prince,” he said.
Dube is one of three Zimbabweans at Azam FC, alongside ex-Bosso teammates Bruce Kangwa and Never Tigere.
“It’s usually difficult to settle in a foreign environment, but Bruce and Never have been there for me. They have helped me a lot in adjusting to the culture and language.”
As he shines in Dar es Salaam, Dube’s mother Princisca Moyo continues to wish the best for her son, back at her home in the high-density suburb of Emganwini in Bulawayo.
“Prince grew up the hard way, especially after the death of his father when he was only in Grade Four. At some point, after completing Grade Seven, he temporarily stopped school because there was no money for fees. That’s how tough it was. But I am glad my son is using his talent now to make things right. The way he grew up inspires him a lot.
“He knows his roots and we keep praying for him. I am proud of him, he is doing well in Tanzania and his family is happy,” said the 47-year-old Moyo, a mother of five.
Dube’s scoring streak has captured the attention of scouts across the globe.
The Sunday Mail Sport understands there is interest from French top-flight sides and Dube’s cousin and Highlanders veteran striker, Mkhokheli Dube, is excited.
“Obvious, when someone is doing well they attract interest.
“However, most of it is speculation. When the right time comes the boy’s manager and agent Gibson Mahachi will update you,” Mkhokheli said.
Dube has been linked to Moroccan giant Raja Casabalanca, but Mahachi categorically dismissed the reports.
“We have always known Prince’s potential for a very long time. Yes, he is under the radar of some clubs, but there is no interest at all from Raja Casablanca.
“Anything that comes up, will be for us to handle. We are pleased with his performances, we hope and pray he continues like that. As his manager, it’s my duty to make sure that he gets to where he wants.
“We know his targets and we will help him achieve those targets,” said Mahachi.
George Deda, the man who brokered Dube’s move to Azam FC, is satisfied with the player’s progress.
“I am more than pleased with the impact and progress Prince has had in the Vodacom League, where he has become a cult hero overnight. I am pleased, especially since so many people were against this move when I initiated it, but look now, Prince is one of the most trending players in Africa,” said Deda.
The early years
Before Dube developed into a national team player, there were people who were critical in the boy’s progress. One of them is Melusi “Mabaleka” Sibanda, a Highlanders junior coach.
“My first encounter with Prince was during a schools tournament at Gloag High, I think it was around 2012 or 2013 and he was playing for Somvubu Secondary School.
“I was with Ndumiso Gumede and we were obviously keeping an eye out for potential talent. Dube was unplayable during that tournament. ”It was love at first sight for us as Gumede persuaded him to come to Highlanders,” revealed Sibanda.
“He signed a pre-contract, but when he came for trials with the senior team, things didn’t work out well as he was deemed not good enough. That’s how he ended up playing for Bosso 90 in Division Two. At one point, he wanted to give up, but I told him his time would come.
“He then scored 22 goals for Bosso 90 in 2015 and people started noticing his talent.
“He was a good player, talented, but you could see something was lacking, especially his pace and dribbling skills.
“We worked on that and you can see the Prince Dube of today is outpacing defenders in Tanzania. I am happy for him, being the coach who groomed him. I was on the phone with him last week and my prayer is that he ends up in England or Spain,” Sibanda said.
Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu was an assistant coach at Bosso when Dube finally made the breakthrough into the first team in 2016.
He added his voice.
“He was in the development side in 2015 at Highlanders when I was the assistant coach to Bongani Mafu. That is when I first saw the potential in the boy. We would have them train with first-team once or twice a week and we could tell the boy had a lot to give in the future and it’s not surprising where he is now.
He was promoted into the senior team in 2016 and in his first year in the top-flight he also made it into the Zimbabwe Under-20 national team.”
That Under-20 side included Nelson Chadya, who is now at Ngezi Platinum Stars, Peace Makaha (Manica Diamonds), Leeroy Mavhunga (CAPS United), Jerry Chipangura (Harare City), Blessing “Gode” Nyamuzihwa (ZPC Kariba), and Thomas Kadyaridzire, formerly with Chicken Inn.
Dutch coach Pieter de Jongh, who is credited for reviving Dube’s career when he was in charge of Highlanders in 2019, revealed how he transformed the striker.
“When I first arrived at Highlanders I had one-on-one meetings with every player, asking them about their dreams, family life, and the future. I noticed that Prince was not focused most times. I changed that. I told him to focus and deliver and make the next step in his career,” said de Jongh, who is now at champions FC Platinum.
“Prince is a top player with a lot of qualities, speed, good shot with both legs, high basic qualities and can score goals and give assists. In training, I was focusing on him. I pushed him to deliver because the best players make the difference for their teams.”
The last time Dube moved to a foreign club it didn’t work out at SuperSport United in South Africa in 2017.
He was released in 2018 and rejoined Bosso the following year. Last year, he told The Sunday Mail Sport that he would utilise his next chance at a foreign club. “If I get another opportunity to play in a foreign league, I will grab it with both hands.
“When I went there (SuperSport United), things didn’t work out well. I was still young, but I also feel that I didn’t get the chance I deserved.
“But, I am a bit more mature now, I know a lot of things so I think next time it will be better,” Dube said.
True, to his word, things have been better for him in Dar es Salaam. The Sunday Mail