VETERAN striker Gilbert “Chinaman” Mushangazhike, who turns 38 today, always curves a banana smile when passing a greeting.
REPORT BY ALBERT MARUFU
However, in the eyes of this famous goal poacher, there appears to be that faraway look, asking what went wrong in an accolades-filled career.
It is that football career, spanning 20-years that saw him gracing the covers of famous football magazines, driving posh cars and some fans falling in love with his type of play, to the extent of giving him the moniker “Delicious.”
Then the dreadlocked former Warrior was on the books of glamour clubs, among them German side Emden Kickers, South Africa’s Orlando Pirates, Manning Rangers and Chinese side Jiangsu Sainty.
Mushangazhike finished among the top scorers in South Africa on three concecutive occassions, scoring 17 times in 1998/99, 22 goals 2000/01 and 14 goals in 2001/02 seasons.
Today the Mbare resident celebrates his birthday not in the comfort associated with the German, South Africa and Chinese clubs, but in the confines of the dusty One Commando Barracks Stadium, the home of his new club, Black Rhinos.
Questions are being asked on Mushangazhike’s decision to continue playing football, with his detractors suggesting that he is broke.
They point to the highly publicised case in which his ex-wife took him to court for neglecting his children last year, and he pleaded with the courts to be lenient as he was no longer playing football.
Could this be the reason for him resuscitating his playing career, first at Division One side Power Master and now Black Rhinos when most of his former teammates have graduated into coaching?
“It is not a decision influenced by money at all. I have made my investments in life, but I do not want to discuss my life with the public. I look after my body well, as I do not drink or smoke.
I think I still have two or three more seasons to play,” said the dreadlocked star.
“Not only do I want to be the oldest player to have played in the local league, but I also want to win something at home. I have won awards while playing in foreign lands, but not at home.”
The holder of CAF Level C, Uefa Class C and Holland Discovery coaching certificates feels that he still has the mojo to make local defenders toil.
“I am still intelligent, strong at shooting and heading as well. I don’t drink or smoke and nothing can stop me from playing for the national team again,” he added. His coach at Black Rhinos, Arthur Tutani said; “He is a very punctual player and makes me believe that age is just a number. I think he still has two or three more seasons to play.”
The dreadlocked striker showed that he still has class when he helped his new side Black Rhinos to a rare 2-0 victory over FC Platinum last month.
“I like the body language of players at Black Rhinos. They all want to survive relegation and third position from the bottom is not good at all,” said Mushangazhike.
Though he rates himself highly, Mushangazhike believes his 16-year-old son Busler, who plays for Juventus in the South Africa junior league will surpass his own exploits.
“Busler makes me proud, and he is going to carry the Mushangazhike name forward. My father Arthur, my brothers Kevin, Alwin and myself, all played our part, but I think Busler is going to be the greatest of all Mushangazhikes. I am planning to take him to Germany soon,” he said.
Mushangazhike, who draws inspiration from Reggae music, started his career at the now defunct Fire Batteries, before moving to German side Emden Kickers in 1996.
He then came back home to join the then highflying Blackpool in 1997, before being swooped by South Africa’s Manning Rangers then coached by current Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund.
“I came back to Africa in 1997 and scored eight goals in six games for Blackpool. Rangers scouts who were in the country spotted me,” he said.
In 2003 Mushangazhike joined Chinese side Jiangsu Sainty, where he became an instant hit and won the Player of the Year award before being handed the captain’s armband. He came back to South Africa to join Orlando Pirates in 2007 until 2009, when he was loaned to Mpumalanga Black Aces.
On the future after football, Mushangazhike said; “One can’t predict the future. I have coaching qualifications and once coached Laliga [local team], but at the moment I am playing football.”
Chinaman’s heart bleeds for local football
Mushangazhike added that it was his view that local football was on a downward spiral and needed quick intervention.
“In Zimbabwe we are trying very hard, but we are not improving at all. In South Africa and China they have goals and achieve them which is not the case here. Also, they have more professionals out there than us.
“Junior development is as good as dead and most local soccer academies are just like crèches, where kids just play without any seriousness at all. There is not much sponsorship in our football and players are suffering because of poor remuneration,” he said.