WARRIORS goalkeepers’ coach Nkululeko Dhlamini is one player who has never represented his country at any age group level in his 13-year career.
REPORT BY ALBERT MARUFU
Dhlamini’s career began with a lot of promise at the then crisis ridden Dynamos in 1993.
Fate had presented the talented youngster with an opportunity after chaos rocked the team which broke into Dynamos FC and Dynamos United in 1992.
When the team finally found its soul after Morrison Sifelani beat Jokoniah Nhekairo to the chairmanship position, young players such as Dhlamini, Tichaona Dhiya and Chamu Musanhu emerged.
But as they say, opportunities that easily come are easily lost, Dhlamini made the decision in 1995 to quit the game just before his 21th birthday vowing never to have anything to do with football again.
The Mbare-bred goalkeeper had been disillusioned at being second choice to the talented and experienced Peter “Chops” Fanuel, who kept guard when Dynamos regrouped to win the 1994 championship.
“I broke into the Dynamos first team in 1993 after completing high school at Harare High School. After Tichaona Dhiya got injured, I became the regular first choice goalkeeper. However, the following season Chops was preferred ahead of me. I did not see it as an opportunity to learn and that was a mistake on my part,” he said.
“Being a young boy, emotions got the better of me and I quit football for two years. I even ignored pleas from the coach Sunday [Chidzambwa], then club secretary Austin Zvoma and the late chairman Morrison Sifelani to reconsider my decision. For the whole of 1995 and 1996 I was out of Harare and was staying with my brother in Bulawayo.”
Dhlamini said he had even ignored calls to rejoin the team for the 1995 CAF Champions League campaign where he was one of the registered goalkeepers.
“I was young and failed to see reason. I remember in one of the CAF Champions League matches where Hope Chihota ended up sitting on the bench as the reserve goalkeeper after I failed to turn up. Sometimes I would come back and I remember travelling to Sudan for one of the games,” he said.
He said because of the two-year hiatus, he lost the place to fellow goalkeepers of his generation, a feat he never recovered from.
“I never recovered those two years and that could be the reason why I never played for the national team. I could have played at the 1995 All Africa Games had I not briefly quit the game. That was a terrible mistake on my part because I failed to catch up with other goalkeepers of my generation such as, Muzondiwa Mugadza, Gift Muzadzi and George Mudiwa,” he said.
Though Dhlamini finally got back to his senses and emerged from hibernation in 1997, competition was too much for him as he had to contain with four other goalkeepers — Gift Muzadzi George Mandizvidza, Tichaona Dhiya and Obey Murefu.
“I came back to Dynamos in 1997, but could only play in the reserves. I was contracted to Dynamos, but together with Desmond Maringwa, Masimba Mbuwa [late], we played for Masvingo’s Mucheke Colts in Division One,” he said.
Though he was signed for the 1998 season, he became third choice after Muzadzi and Ernest Chirambadare. He never tasted that season’s CAF Champions League
success where the team controversially lost in the final to Asec Mimosas.
He was to further slide down as he was forced to join lowly Arcadia United the following season. The downward spiral continued as he then moved to less
fashionable Motor Action, Chapungu, Eiffel Flats and Buymore FC before rounding off his career at CAPS FC in 2006.
“When I arrived at Buymore, Muzadzi was the first choice goalkeeper but he left for South Africa and I remember winning the goalkeeper of the month thrice
from June that year. I was then voted among the best 11 players of that season, but eventually retired because of a knee injury,” said Dhlamini.