WHEN 16-year-old Maxwell “MaRhino” Dube made his premiership debut with Chapungu in 1993, a football gem had been unearthed in the Midlands town of Gweru.
REPORT BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Shortly afterwards, comparisons between the then form four student at Ascot Secondary were made with soccer legend Peter Ndlovu who had left for England two years earlier.
And when he was thrown into the fray against Dynamos for his debut match in the Rufaro cauldron, many thought the winger would melt in the intimidating atmosphere.
But the teenager held his nerves, helping the Midlanders restrict Dynamos to a goalless draw in a match he spent 90 minutes tussling with legends Angirayi Chapo, Henry Chari, Vitalis Takawira and the late Francis Shonhayi.
Little did he know that 11 years later he would break the local transfer fee record when he attracted a ZW$25 million loan move to Dynamos.
Three years earlier, he had lived up to Gweru folks’ high expectations when his name was engraved in Zimbabwe’s football folklore, after being crowned the 2001 Soccer Star of the Year, although he was widely tipped to play in Europe.
“I do not regret not playing in Europe,” said Dube.
“I believe that is what God planned for me, although I had opportunities to try my luck in Europe there were always transfer fee disagreements between my team [Chapungu] and the other parties denied me that opportunity.”
Squabbles between Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ)-owned Chapungu and other clubs were to become a curse in his football career.
“I also had many offers from South Africa, but my team asked for too much which caused some teams to disagree with the terms and conditions wanted by Chapungu,” he said.
His only foreign dances were season-loan stints at South African top-flight league side Hellenic in 1997 and FC Fortune in the first division in 1999 sandwiching another season back at Chapungu.
FC Fortune was owned by former Manchester United midfielder Quinton Fortune.
Growing up in Gweru’s oldest suburb of Mtapa, the script was already written that Dube would one day become a soundtrack in Zimbabwean football.
Famed as a well of football talent, Mtapa’s Gafa grounds were like a second home to MaRhino.
“I think Gafa grounds moulded me into a better player. We had to be forced to go home to eat or bath, otherwise, I would not feel hungry when playing football. So imagine walking less than a minute into Gafa and spending the whole day playing football. I think all that training helped me become a better player” Dube said.
It was at Gafa where he was spotted by the late Chapungu coach Lovemore Nyabeza, who took no time in snapping up the then 16-year-old schoolboy. Chapungu then assumed the responsibility of paying his school fees and other school needs like uniforms.
“The club executive came to our house and told my mum that they were going to give me a job as soon I finish school,” he said.
“My mum was so excited and fortunately I managed to pass five O’level subjects. On 26 October 1994 I was employed by the AFZ as an admin clerk. Serving in the army helped me maintain my discipline on and off the field.”
Blessed with a blistering shot and pace during his days, he played at Chapungu with Kennedy Chihuri, Gary Mkandawire, Clement Mugari, Philip Marufu, Cuthbert Malajila, Ricky Sibiya, Matthew Mahala and the late Nkulumo Donga, among others. The 36-year-old’s heart bleeds at the declining football standards in Gweru.
“Football in Gweru has died because most of the talent is being lured by teams outside the city. We need teams from Gweru to have a strong junior policy,” said Dube.
That is why he owns MaRhino7, a football academy in Gweru.
A self-confessed mummy’s boy, Dube was equally famed for his style-blended wardrobe that turned heads in the streets.
Relocating to the UK where he is now based since July 2008, he is in the courier industry and is married to his childhood love Lucia whom he stays with in Leicester with their three-year-old son Makanaka Maxwell jnr.
MARHINO CARVED HIS NAME INTO FOOTBALL ARCHIVES
Marhino has more to cherish than regret in a career that has spanned 15 years.
“Winning the Soccer Star of the Year award was one of the best moments in my career and I could not believe it when I walked to the podium. I remember when Charles Mabika asked me to give a speech, I spoke breifly because I was still in a state of shock and all the cameras were on me. I was so excited and on the top of the world,” Dube said.
Dube made his national team debut on August 17 1997, in a 2-1 loss to Cameroon in a World Cup qualifier in which Patrick Mboma scored a brace inside four minutes at the National Sports Stadium.
He went on to earn more than 20 Warriors caps playing alongside Peter Ndlovu, Bruce Grobbelaar, Benjani Mwaruwari, Wilfred and William Mugeyi, Norman Mapeza, Newton Katanha and Gorge Mbwando.
“I gained a lot through playing football. I gained a lot of respect, fame and I have managed to change my family’s life and I am proud that I own a four-bedroomed house in Gweru which I bought with the savings I got from my football incentives,” he said.
He played in the CAF Confederations Cup with Black Rhinos and Dynamos in 2003 and 2004 respectively.