By Charles Mabika
He was a fanatical admirer of former Manchester United and England midfield skipper Bryan Robson.
And Anthony Kambani (58), who passed away on Wednesday after a short illness at a local hospital, certainly had the same leadership qualities, industry, flair, determination and discipline on and off the pitch like the Old Trafford icon and legend.
Those were the main reasons I coined the nickname Bryan Robson for the former Arcadia United and CAPS United midfielder.
His death stunned thousands of fans in the high-density suburb of Mbare where he was born and bred.
Growing up in a family that had his elder brothers — Manu and Nicholas — revered for their musical talents at local groups Dr Footswitch and Gypsy Caravan respectively, Anthony chose to carve his niche into fame in football whilst still at Chitsere Primary School.
In those early days, he teamed up with the likes of other future great names like Stanley “Chola” Manyathi and Japhet “Short Cat” M’parutsa (later Dynamos), Patrick “Samusha” Duncan (later Darryn T) and Amon “Cat” Chikwenga (later Chapungu United) where his (Kambani) leadership style and discipline were infectiously exemplary.
Chikwenga, who was short of words after hearing the sad news, said: “It’s so sad that our version of England’s Bryan Robson was never called up into the Warriors side because I can confidently say he would have been appointed the team’s leader and would have undertaken that task diligently. He was so energetic, a real go-getter who would drive the entire team forward even in those early days of our lives.”
Maybe the reason why Kambani rarely hit the headlines was because he arrived at both the Red Army (Arcadia United) and Makepekepe when there were already established campaigners like Mike “Mabhurukwa” Abrahams, Bethal “Kabhutsu” Salis and Charlie “Kabhaskoro” Jones and Joel “Jubilee” Shambo, Shacky “Mr Goals” Tauro and Friday “Breakdown” Phiri.
But the world of the “unrecognisables” never bothered Kambani. Instead he loved it because he would, at times, jokingly retort: “After we lose a match, isu tisingazivikanwe tinofamba kwese kwese tisinga shaudhwe nemasupporter ivo vane mbiri vachioneswa moto!” (After we lose a match, those of us who are not popular will never be hustled by irate fans unlike the popular ones!”).
However, he hated losing. That’s probably why he always worked himself to a standstill on the pitch to ensure that the team triumphed.
And he would continuously urge his teammates to keep fighting when the chips were down.
Ironically, his most memorable match was the one against his beloved Makepekep long before he joined them. That match took place in 1984 when he put up a man-of-the-match performance for Division One side ProNutro as they stunned the whole nation by knocking out the pre-tournament favourites 3-0 in a Castle Cup first round tie at Rufaro.
On that day, the grain milling side also had ‘keeper Leo “Tingo” Linyama, Jim “Brown” Anthony, Anyway Chamwalila, Itai Tambala and Biggie-George Nyamulani in their line-up.
Whenever you asked him about that match, his eyes would light up and he would in his ever-smiling and unique fashion, narrate to you – pass-by-pass – the entire match.
That was Bryan Robson for you.
Although he never ventured into music like his aforementioned elder brothers Manu and Nicholas, he had a “borrowed” tinge of their talents and would illustrate what might have been for his friends.
I recall a few years back when we bumped into each other at a popular resort in the capital’s outskirts where Mbare folklore outfit Pied Pipers were playing.
And when their bassist, the late Chowasi Mdoka started leading the chiming for the hit song “Shumaira”, originally sung by Manu’s Dr Footswitch, Anthony sprung onto the stage, grabbed the microphone and dished out a remarkable and captivating rendition of the golden oldie.
Maybe he should have ventured into the music world upon his retirement but he chose to have two brief but enjoyable coaching stints at his two beloved sides, Arcadia United and CAPS United.
His elder brother Peter said the family had lost an energetic bread-winner, loving father and guardian.
“Anthony was a lovable character and always went out of his way to assist relatives and friends. He continued to be a soccer-lover and most of his stories were about the local game and of course, the past and great exploits of the real Bryan Robson. We will greatly miss him,” he said.
The real Bryan Robson is still alive today as he travels worldwide as an ambassador for his beloved Red Devils.
The Zimbabwean version of his name is now lying and resting from up above, with two possible wishes for Arcadia United and CAPS United: the former getting promoted back into the top-flight whilst the latter continues with its plunder as one of the best in the land.
Kambani is survived by his wife Melody and two daughters, Denise and Candice.
Mourners are gathered at No. 2523 Budiriro 1, Harare. The Herald