By Eddie Chikamhi
Washington Arubi was the hero, turning back the hands of time, to produce one of the finest goalkeeping shows ever witnessed in Supa Diski, on a special day for his country on Sunday.
With Zimbabwe celebrating its 41st Independence anniversary, Arubi produced a stunning individual display to help unfashionable Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila beat giants Mamelodi Sundowns, in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals.
The South African Premiership newboys knocked out the former African champions to set up a final against Chippa United.
That the match even went into extra-time, and then the penalty shoot-out lottery, was mainly due to Arubi’s outstanding individual show.
He was simply brilliant, providing a one-man barrier against the Brazilians, and now, and again, keeping his team in the game.
And, when it mattered, in the shoot-out lottery, he provided the defining moment, producing a superb acrobatic save to keep out Sundowns skipper, Hlompo Kekana, to put his team on the path to glory.
Sundowns coach, Manqoba Mngqithi, hailed Arubi “one of the best goalkeepers in the country.”
The match had ended goalless before the Limpopo side, in their first appearance in Supa Diski, won 6-5 on penalties.
Reactions to his performances appeared to bring all social media users in unison that the Zimbabwean, at 35-years-old, is still on top of his game, despite the challenges, he has faced in his game.
“I think credit today should be given to their goalkeeper,” Mngqithi told SuperSport TV.
“Washington was on top of his game today. He made some outstanding saves in areas where you thought he was dead and buried and he came out.”
This was a match that Sundowns could have bagged inside regulation time but as it turned out Arubi was the only difference between winning and losing.
The 35-year old former Dynamos man appeared to turn the hand of time with some fine reflexes, and acrobatic saves, which helped him win the Castle Soccer Star of the Year award, back home in 2011.
The match statistics showed that Sundowns had 12 shots at goal, and seven of them on target, yet they could not breach the goal for 120 minutes, thanks to Arubi’s athleticism.
Sundowns’ star men, Subusiso Vilakazi, Lyle Lakay and Peter Shalulile all came close but found the goalkeeper unflinching, to take the match into the penalty shoot-out lottery. The crowning moment came during the spot kicks when he brilliantly dived to his right, and somehow, had the reflex to raise his hand and stop Kekana’s firmly-struck spot-kick.
“I’ve always like Arubi. I’ve always believed he’s a very good goalkeeper. And today he really showed his quality.
“And, I am sure there are many other teams looking at him differently because he’s always been a good goalkeeper.
“I was wondering why he had to slump down to NFD because he has always been one of the best goalkeepers in the country,” said.
Exactly 10 years have passed since Arubi lifted the Soccer Star of the Year award in Zimbabwe.
Now, the former Zimbabwe international is basking in rave reviews in South Africa, where he has become one of the best ‘keepers in that country.
Arubi has clearly been one of the stand-out players, in the Nedbank Cup, this season. He also played a starring role, in the quarter-finals, when he saved two spot kicks in the shoot-out lottery, to set up a 4-3 victory, over Swallows.
Since his move from Zimbabwe in 2012, after winning a league title with Dynamos, Arubi has played for a number of teams in South Africa.
They include Pretoria University, Stellenbocsh and, most recently, Supersport United.
Ironically, Arubi spent the last two years warming the bench at Supersport United.
There were some who implied Arubi was only being kept because of his compatriot, Kaitano Tembo, the SuperSport United coach.
However, his performances this season show that Tembo was right, to invest in the goalkeeper, as a back-up player, just in case something happened to his number one, Ronwen Williams.
SuperSport United decided against renewing his contract, at the end of last season, and he was forced to move to the newboys.
Despite TTM’s struggles, in their debut season, Arubi still has managed to distinguish himself with eight clean sheets, from 19 starts, in the DStv Premiership.
On Sunday he single-handedly took the club to the final of the Nedbank Cup, which has a purse of R7m (US$490 000), and the possibility of playing in the next edition of the CAF Confederation Cup.
They face fellow relegation candidates, Chippa United, in the Nedbank Cup final.
Arubi has transformed himself to his previous best, to the delight of his new employers at TTM.
The club’s assistant coach, Mpho Maleka, told journalists after Sunday’s game that the veteran goalkeeper has been working round the clock to deserve this current form.
“We are not surprised to see what he did today. For him to win man-of-the-match, he deserves that and it will rub off (onto) others. “As I mentioned the quality that we have, we only want to make it a quality team so individually we continue to win man-of-the-matches.
“It will rub onto others and that’s why we want everyone to stay focused, everybody to stay together and fight on,” said Maleka.
Arubi became only the third goalkeeper in Zimbabwe, to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in 2011, following in the footsteps of Japhet M’parutsa and Energy Murambadoro. The Herald