FOOTBALL never excited 2013 Soccer Star of the Year finalist Gift Bello in his formative years.
Instead, at Rugare and Mbare’s Chirodzo primary schools, Bello was known for his prowess as a traditional dancer.
Football to him was not for the vertically challenged and his friends pejoratively called him “Shorty” in reference to his height which stands at approximately 1,5 metres.
BY ALBERT MARUFU
“In traditional dance, one’s height is never a concern. But in football, people always referred to my height and this fermented my hatred for the sport,” said Bello, reflecting on a journey that has seen him helping Dynamos to their third championship in a row.
The 28-year-old, who surprisingly has no nickname, capped a fine season by being named among the 2013 Soccer Stars of the Year finalists.
However, had it not been for his late father’s friend Jack Shamu (also late), who was a junior soccer coach, Bello would not be enjoying life at the top.
“It is sad that coach Shamu is now late. He would have been happy for me because I am his product,” said Bello.
“Today I am a regular at the biggest team in the country. I have won three league titles, a number of trophies and one first division championship,” he said.
However, the road has been bumpy for Bello as he had to deal with the agony of losing three close family members in a space of three years.
In 2006, Bello lost coach Shamu who had shepherded him from his days at ASEC Juniors in Mbare, at the now defunct Kestrenel Athletic in 2003 and later Kiglon Bird in 2005 as well as his parents who died one after the other between 2008 and 2009.
“Coach Shamu is the one who took me to Division One side Kestrenel Athletic in 2003 and Kiglon Bird in 2005. He was an integral member in my career development. I was shattered when he died and I was just 22 years old then. However, I had to soldier on and I was overjoyed when Kiglon Bird got promoted to the top flight in 2007,” said Bello.
In his debut premiership season in 2008, Bello lost his father Charles with his mother Irene also following in 2009.
“It is painful to lose one parent. Losing both inside two years is a bitter pill to swallow. Maybe it would have been better if Coach Shamu was alive,” said the second born in a family of five.
Bello had to mature faster at an age where most of his mates were enjoying the fame that comes with playing Premier Soccer League football.
Mutasa salutes Bello
bello’s former coach Lloyd Mutasa spoke highly of the defender.
“I am one of those who voted for him because I believe he has been underrated for a long time. This has more to do with his height but people forget that Memory Mucherahowa was not tall at all. Bello is a hardworking player who does every task that you assign him to do. He can even out-jump tall strikers,” said Mutasa.
Sadly, Bello, who has never been involved with junior football at any age group level, does not see himself playing in the national team.
“I really want to play for the national team, but because of my height I doubt that. Club level is different from international football,” he said.
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The crippling economy did not help matters either as Kiglon Bird started struggling financially resulting in them failing to pay their players.
With Kiglon Bird facing a bleak future, the team’s former coach Mutasa took five players with him to Dynamos and Bello was one of them.
Together with Thomas Magorimbo, Dominic Benati, Devon Chafa and Denver Mukamba, Bello found himself with prospects of playing Champions League football.
“I could not believe it when coach Lloyd Mutasa asked me if I was interested in playing for Dynamos. I was very happy and here I am,” he said.
Sadly, Dynamos did not do well in the Champions League and Bello only saw action during the second half of the season after George Magariro’s injury.
The following season he got his chance only after Guthrie Zhokinyi was banned, but this season he has cemented his position at the heart of the Dynamos defence.
This season has been his year, as he has featured in almost all Dynamos games and never being cautioned by the referees.
However, he has lived in the shadow of the towering Augustine Mbara, Sydney Linyama and crowd favourites Parson Jaure and Ocean Mushure.
This explains the muted murmurings from a section of journalists when his name was called out at the Soccer Stars of the Year selection last weekend.
However, that does not worry him at all. “I was very confident of being included because I was the best Dynamos player this season,” he said.