Just outside the Guldfågeln Arena, the home of Swedish top-flight league side Kalmar FF, a female fan screams and jumps on Zimbabwean midfielder Archford Gutu with ecstasy after meeting her hero.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
She quickly bares out her left breast and pleads for Gutu to sign an autograph on the fleshy boob and all this happens in the presence of her boyfriend who could afford to smile in approval.
A stunned Gutu hesitates at first, but eventually succumbs to the young lady’s persistence and pens his signature, much to the delight of the woman and her partner.
This sums up how Gutu has asserted his worth at Kalmar FF and boldly engraved his name in the hearts of the clubs’ fans.
Arriving in the Swedish south-eastern city of Kalmar in January this year coming straight from Africa for his maiden season in a European league, the former Dynamos linkman has integrated well at his adopted home.
“Kalmar is a small city where everyone supports the club and the fans warmly welcomed me. It is difficult to compare Kalmar FF supporters to those of Dynamos, but if I am left with no choice I would be forced to say the fans in Sweden are a little bit more passionate,” said Gutu.
“Some fans even have the club’s logo or our autographs tattooed on some parts of their bodies. When I walk in the street I am easily recognised and always overwhelmed by how the fans react when they see me.”
But the former Shooting Stars player maintains he will never sink into the bright lights of Kalmar or allow fame to creep into his head.
“I am the same old Archie. Even if I make millions of dollars, I will remain the same person. I just try to live normally,” said Gutu.
During the interview with Standardsport, the player’s manager Calvin Nyazema was present and concurred with Gutu.
“He is a good boy, very humble and down to earth. Even now that he is a football star, I can easily send him to go and pick up my kids at school. He is very ambitious and always wants to be at the top,” said Nyazema.
Since their first encounter in 2005, Nyazema has been a father figure to Gutu who is an orphan.
He even travelled with Gutu to Sweden in January and stayed there for close to a month to help the player settle down.
The Swedish top-tier league, the Allsvenskan, runs concurrently with the Zimbabwean premiership.
Gutu’s daily schedule
Gutu has gotten used to his daily schedule.
“I wake up in the morning, take a shower and have breakfast. I then go on my lap-top and check my emails and Facebook inbox. A club driver comes and picks me up for training where club rules state that we have to be at the training ground 30 minutes before the start of the practice session.
“I then go back home and have lunch but sometimes I eat out with teammates Abiola and Pape and occasionally do the same for supper. In the afternoon we are usually on PlayStation or watching TV. I am now a good cook because of staying alone,” Gutu said.
Star content with debut season
With Kalmar FF being the biggest football club in Sweden’s Småland province, a 10th-place finish in the 16-team league is near-disaster but for Gutu, what mattered most was an improvement in his game.
It was a season where Kalmar FF also competed in three rounds of the Uefa Europa league preliminary stages. Boasting of 20 league appearances including 10 starts under coach Nanne Bergstrand, Gutu enjoyed a fine debut season which began with a pre-season camp in Spain.
“I struggled in the first games where I was not yet mentally and physically fit. I would easily get pushed off the ball but worked hard in the gym and now feel I have tremendously improved tactically as well.
“My coaches and teammates helped me settle down very well. Our assistant coach Giles Stille is from England and he helped me a lot with communication,” said Gutu.
For a Mbare born and bred boy, Gutu is living his European dream.
Staying in a bachelor one-bedroom apartment just 10 minutes away from the training ground, Gutu feels closer to Africa because of the presence of his best teammates, Senegalese striker Pape Alioune Diouf and Nigerian Abiola Dauda who also stay in the same block of flats.
“Obviously, the culture and lifestyle in Sweden are totally different from that of Zimbabwe. The food is good and I usually eat rice, pasta, meat and potatoes but I always miss sadza. I am still learning to speak Swedish. The weather is harsh in winter because of snow which forces me to stay indoors most of the time,” he said.
Gutu says he occasionally spots a few Zimbabwean flags in the crowd in their matches around Sweden and is yearning to have a Zimbabwean community around him, just like Dauda who is surrounded by his Nigerian compatriots.