The Batonga people found in the northern part of Zimbabwe refer to a crocodile as munkuli.
REPORT BY ALBERT MARUFU
The animal pretends to be asleep when in actual fact the beast will be waiting to pounce on its prey.
Whether by design or coincidence, the highly underrated, but talented former Hwange FC, CAPS United and Dynamos goalkeeper’s name is Witness surname is Munkuli.
Like a crocodile, Munkuli’s unassuming looks do not inspire confidence and many a time, fans tend to doubt his ability to save the team, only for him to prove them wrong.
Even CAPS United fans could not trust him to fit into the shoes of then reigning Soccer Star of the Year Energy Murambadoro who had sought greener pastures overseas in the 2004 season.
But, not only did Munkuli help his side win the championship, he also won the Buddie Challenge Cup, as well as being voted Goalkeeper of the Month six times that same year.
Like a crocodile that is often ignored, he was not among the 2004 Soccer Stars of the Year finalists. Tapiwa Kapini was voted Goalkeeper of the Year.
“It is something I got used to. At Hwange it was Chenjerai Dube who got most of the credit at the end of the season.
“In 2004 I was voted the Food World Goalkeeper of the Month on six occasions, but I was considered not good enough for the Soccer Star of the Year finalists. Kapini was considered the best goalkeeper that year. It still pains me up to now,” said Munkuli in his heavily inflected tone.
“During my first days at CAPS United, the supporters did not think I would succeed in fitting in Murambadoro’s shoes. However, we won the league and numerous other tournaments.”
Though he had a glorious year in between the posts in 2004, Munkuli also had one of his worst moments that saw Highlanders goalkeeper Kapini scoring two goals past him with one of the goals coming from a goal kick.
“That was one of my worst games. Wherever I go, people still talk about those goals but it happens in football. I used to get frustrated, but I have gotten used to it,” he said.
“That day it was slippery and I was facing the sun. Moreover, when Kapini delivered the goal kick, I was also concentrating on their striker Chipo Tsodzo. We lost the match and people still judge me from that incident. Maybe that explains why Kapini was later adjudged to be the Goalkeeper of the Year that year.”
The following year Munkuli’s career went up in smoke as he broke his left leg in an African Champions League match against Lesotho Defence Forces.
“It was terrible. No-one thought that I would play soccer again with then CAPS United coach Charles Mhlauri proposing that I be made the goalkeepers trainer after recovering. I wanted to play again and the then Dynamos coach David Mandigora advised me on how I should train.
“He then persuaded me to join Dynamos in 2006. Unfortunately during the time that I was recovering only Willard Manyengavana from CAPS United visited me. At Dynamos I enjoyed the competition for the first team jersey with Brian Ndlovu and Tichaona Diya,” said Munkuli, who later joined Motor Action in 2007 after the expiry of his contract.
After seeing little action at Motor Action, Munkuli later joined Arthur Tutani’s Simba Stars in Division One in 2009 and then Zinwa in 2010 before subsequently hanging his boots in 2011.
Munkuli, who is a goalkeeper’s coach at Harare City, revealed that it is his hope that he will compensate his failure to play for the national team by coaching the team.
“I was ignored as a player by respective national team coaches, even at a time when some goalkeepers admitted that if it was about form, I should have been considered.
“I have so much to offer and hope that one day I will be given a chance to be the Warriors’ goalkeepers coach,” said Munkuli.
Munkuli started his soccer career with Zimbabwe Saints juniors in 1988, but left Bulawayo for Hwange who later loaned him to Zesa Hwange in 1994.
“I rejoined Hwange FC in 1996 and played for the club until 2002 when I joined CAPS United. My best year at Hwange was in 1997 when we beat the big teams Dynamos and Highlanders,” the 37-year-old said.
“I joined Hwange because I wanted to be closer to Binga, my home area,” said Munkuli on a parting shot.
Such is the story of Witness Munkuli, Zimbabwe’s talented but arguably the most underrated goalkeeper.