By Langton Nyakwenda
Almost two decades after making his professional debut, Washington Arubi is back in the headlines, and this time for all the good reasons.
He might be 35, but the Mutare-bred goalkeeper is feeling more like that Arubi of 10 years ago, who became only the third ’keeper, after Japhet Mparutsa and Energy Murambadoro, to win the Zimbabwe Soccer Star of the Year award.
Arubi has rediscovered his mojo at South African Premier Soccer League side, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM), and is even dreaming of regaining his position as one of the Warriors goalkeepers.
“I guess I am yet to be back to my best. I am going to keep pushing and help my club.
“I am 35 but I believe I still have a lot to offer to my country. Remember, us goalkeepers, we get better with age,” Arubi told The Sunday Mail Sport.
The former Dynamos and Lancashire Steel goalkeeper was overlooked by Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, when the Croat named his provisional squad ahead of Zimbabwe’s two crunch African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia in a fortnight.
Logarusic opted for Talbert Shumba, Martin Mapisa, Ariel Sibanda and Tatenda Mkuruva.
Although Arubi’s omission led some into questioning Loga’s selection after the much-travelled former goalminder recently helped his team into the Nedbank Cup last eight, he remains as patient as a teenage footballer.
“I still believe that one day I will be back with the Warriors and help my country. I am going to keep on working hard until I get a call-up.
“After all, age is just but a number when it comes to goalkeepers.”
Arubi’s last dance with the Warriors was back in 2015 during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. He saved two penalties in the penalty shootout lottery as TTM coasted to a 4-3 victory over Swallows FC that ended the latter’s unbeaten run in all competitions.
“I want to thank God and my family who kept me going when things were tough. But I always believe that life is all about ups and downs. That’s why I kept believing in myself that one day I would turn the tables,” said the TTM vice-captain. Arubi has 14 appearances in the league and has conceded 17 times.
His best is yet to come, so he said.
There was a time when Arubi was so good that he kept 17 clean sheets for Dynamos during the 2011 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season before he was crowned the Soccer Star of the Year. And Arubi, who earned the moniker “Sekuru Gudo” from DeMbare fans, ranks that achievement as the best of his 18-year career.
“My best achievement was when I managed to keep 17 clean sheets at Dynamos and went on to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in 2011.”
Arubi starred for Dynamos and helped lay the foundation for that amazing run when DeMbare won four consecutive league titles under Kalisto Pasuwa between 2011 and 2014.
He was snapped up by University of Pretoria in 2012.
“I was also crowned Player of the Year in my debut season with my former club Tuks (University of Pretoria), and also played 125 games in three and half seasons.
“However, my best is yet to come”.
Arubi is the last goalkeeper to win the Soccer Star of the Year award.
“It’s an honour to be counted as one of only three goalkeepers to have won the Soccer Star of the Year award in Zimbabwe’s football history. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline to be recognised as you know that it’s not easy for a goalkeeper to be crowned soccer star,” said Arubi.
He made his professional debut as a 17-year-old with Lancashire Steel when the Kwekwe side beat Black Rhinos 3-1 at Rufaro, on October 25, 2003.
Arubi then moved to Highlanders in 2007 and had a brief stint with Bantu Rovers before he signed for Dynamos in 2010.
He spent two seasons at the Harare giants before University of Pretoria took him into their ranks.
Arubi played for Tuks between 2012 and 2016, before he moved again to Stellenbosch in 2017.
“As footballers we face numerous difficulties but it’s how you overcome them that is important,” he said.
Just when he thought he had a found comfort at SuperSport, after that stint with Stellenbosch, the worst happened.
SuperSport, who are under the guidance of Zimbabwean gaffer Kaitano Tembo, decided against renewing his contract and for some time in 2020, Arubi was jobless and clueless.
However, the heavens smiled on him once again as DStv Premiership newboys, TTM, snapped him up in October 2020.
He is on a two-year contract.
“Life is okay at my new club even though we faced difficulties that we managed to overcome.
“Football is our life and we have to keep on pushing and find a way to turn the difficulties into positives.
“It was hard but at the same time it showed me the other side of life. Thank God I survived that period and I am now stronger than before and I am still doing what I love most, which is playing football,” Arubi said. The Sunday Mail