Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Kode, the little genius from Mabvuku

By Charles Mabika

They say dynamite comes in small packages. They could have scripted this for CAPS United legend, Joe “Kode Mugabe, who passed away in the UK, on Sunday morning.

Former Caps United captain Joe Mugabe
Former Caps United captain Joe Mugabe

He succumbed to a stomach cancer ailment, a few weeks before his 53rd birthday.

Although he had a small frame, he had a lion’s heart, which defined his awesome performances, and leadership qualities.

It was during one of my commentaries in 1993 at Rufaro in a Harare Derby against Dynamos, at the peak of his career, that I coined his nickname.

Kode is street lingo for “little genius” and because he hailed from Mabvuku, I lengthened the nickname’s full reference to: “Kode From Mabvuku”.

From his early childhood days, at Simudzai Primary School in Mabvuku, Kode was destined to be a fine player and leader.

His then neighbour and lifelong colleague, William Mugeyi, who was a rival at Tashinga Primary School in the same suburb, said Kode was always big-hearted and refused to be intimidated by the bigger boys.

“It always amazed me how he would stand up to the bigger boyss when our teams, which were the biggest rivals in Mabvuku, clashed,’’ Mugeyi recalled.

‘‘And, Joe, who was Simudzai’s skipper, was also our biggest menace. Even during those early days, Joe’s dream was to play for Makepeke where his icon was midfield maestro Joel ‘Jubilee’ Shambo.

‘‘He would always claim, ‘One day I will play alongside Shambo’ and we would laugh at this seemingly wild dream. “When my twin brother Wilfred, and I, later joined Circle United, whose premises were a stone’s throw away from our suburb, where Joe’s dad, Joshua, was team manager, Kode chose to go to CAPS United, after he was recruited by their juniors’ coach, Alois Patsika.

“Both Wilfred and I later joined Black Aces while Kode rose from the junior ranks and he ended up playing alongside his hero Shambo.

“For me, Joe will remain one of the most passionate colleagues I ever had and our world is certainly poorer without him.’’

After Mugabe’s debut appearance, in the Green Machine’s first team squad in 1988, he would grow in leaps and bounds. He helped the team win the top-flight league title in 1996, and several knockout trophies, during an illustrious career that spanned just over a decade.

He also has the record of being the club’s Player of the Year four times (1993, 1994, 1998 and 2001) and was also a Soccer Star of the Year finalist in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2001.

Off the pitch, Mugabe was also a master dancer, during post-match celebrations.

He would leave fellow revellers mesmerised with hip-swaying routines, especially if the music being played was from his favourite artist, Chimurenga guru, Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo, with whom he also shared a close relationship.

That was why Mukanya never had a problem in persuading Kode to come and coach his then Premiership outfit, Sporting Lions, in 2002, a year after the little genius had hung up his boots.

Mugabe co-coached Sporting Lions with former Dynamos midfielder, Lloyd “Samaita” Mutasa, for two seasons. His former colleague, Mpumelelo “Era Muna” Dzowa, now based in the United States, said Kode was a born leader.

“Joe was very assertive and would rally his troops in that unmistakable thick and powerful voice, which defied his small stature,” said Dzowa.

“One instance, which I will always remember, was back in 1996 when we met Dynamos in a league clash at Rufaro. Both sides were chasing the championship title and we drew 1-1.

‘‘That match eventually turned out to be the league decider because had we lost that tie, our rivals would have won the title. With DeMbare leading 1-0, and the match dragging to a close, our fans had almost given up.

‘‘Then we got a free-kick, after midfielder Joseph Takaringofa had been fouled just outside the box.

‘‘With every player in our side wanting to get the equaliser, there were a lot of takers for the kick, however, I was nowhere near that free-kick.

“Then Kode picked up the ball and said, in his authoritative voice: ‘Listen guys, ‘Era Muna’ is going to take this free kick.’

‘‘Everyone just went mum, as they obeyed the skipper’s instructions. I slowly stepped forward and drove a ferocious effort past Dynamos’ ‘keeper Gift Muzadzi to claim the equaliser.’’

The late Shacky “Mr Goals” Tauro is widely regarded as the finest player ever to wear the Green Machine jersey. Then, the likes of Shambo, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma and Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa battle for second place.

But, there are other millions of Makepeke fans who are adamant, up to now, Mugabe is their best player. They point to what he, and some former teammates, have done, not only for the club, but for many budding players, long after their retirement, through CAPS United Legends UK.

It will always remains a mystery to me why none of the Warriors coaches, during Kode’s heydays, ever thrust him into their squads’ midfield.

Were they afraid that, because of his small frame, he would be intimidated by the likes of Cameroon’s Rigobert Song or Patrick Mboma?

Or Morocco’s Noureddine Naybet?

Those coaches were all wrong because nobody could scare this little genius either on, or off, the pitch.