GOALKEEPER Munyaradzi Diya had scant knowledge about Highlanders and the city of Bulawayo during his nascent days.
BY ALBERT MARUFU
Instead, Diya, who pocketed US$1 500 for being the Mbada Diamonds Player of the Tournament, US$1 000 for being the tournament’s Goalkeeper of the Tournament and is guaranteed a further US$1 000 for being selected among the 11 Soccer Stars of the Year, knew more about the team’s fiercest rivals, Dynamos.
This largely has to do with his upbringing in Mbare, which happens to be home to “DeMbare” — a club that gave fame and fortune to his brother Tichaona whom he fondly calls “Mukoma Ticha”.
The little he knew about Highlanders he had learnt from his friend Kuziva Mbuwa, a Highlanders fan who is the younger brother of former Dynamos player Masimba Mbuwa.
“Kuziva used to tell me glowing stories about Bosso’s exploits, but that made little sense to me,” said the 28-year-old goalkeeper who helped Bosso to second position on the log.
“I grew up with an interest in boxing, but my brother Ticha, sometimes took me to Dynamos’ training sessions where I had a chance to watch him, Nkululeko Dhlamini and Gift Muzadzi in practice. I knew a lot about Dynamos and many people I knew supported the team,” said Diya.
However, his efforts to play for the team were fruitless despite having Tichaona in the team’s technical department in 2010.
“People always talk whenever there is a relationship, but there were good goalkeepers at Dynamos. There was Willard Manyatera and Washington Arubi. I was not ripe to compete with them at that time. My brother encouraged me to join Zimbabwe Saints in 2011,” he said.
“I played one Champions League game at Dynamos and that was against TP Mazembe when all the other goalkeepers got injured in 2010. I was voted as the man of the match though Dynamos lost the match 2-1.”
Ironically, it is in Bulawayo, and at Highlanders to be precise, where Diya has managed to rise to the point of eclipsing Tichaona, whose career was cut short by an injury.
“Fitting into the Highlanders system was very easy for me because the team has the same background as that of Dynamos. My teammates and supporters were also supportive,” he said.
But did he expect to perform the way he did this year?
“I have always played as a reserve goalkeeper at previous clubs. Last season I did not play even a single game and that was disappointing,” said Diya.
Diya, whose contract with Highlanders expires at the end of the month, added that he was willing to have another go with the club if offered an opportunity.
“My contract expires on December 31, but I am sure it will be extended,” he said.
He however, did not rule out a move back to Dynamos.
“You never know with football,” was his short reply when asked if that was a possibility.
He also paid tribute to former Zimbabwe youth internationals Alvin Ndunduma and Fungai Kwashi.
“Ticha has had a great influence on my career and is always pushing me to work harder, even now when I am at Highlanders. However, ‘Tosi’ Kwashi and ‘Ndundu’ also provided me with soccer kits. Sporting equipment is expensive in Zimbabwe so they will bring it for me from overseas,” he said.
Diya, who grew up idolising his elder brother Tichaona, Muzadzi and South Africa’s Brian Baloyi, harbours ambitions to play professional football abroad.
Tichaona speaks on Diya’s perseverance
Tichaona Diya is overjoyed by his younger brother’s performance.
“Munya was brought to Dynamos by David Mandigora, contrary to what many people believe. They thought that I was favouring my brother. He is a hard worker and I am happy with what he has achieved. By being selected as one of the best players of the 2013 season, he has taken over from where I left. This is good for our family.
You also have to watch out for my 18-year-old son Berven who is also coming through as a goalkeeper,” said the Dynamos assistant coach.
Tichaona also revealed that it has not been easy to keep the young boy in Bulawayo from his days at Zimbabwe Saints in 2011.
“Moses Chunga advised me to take the player to a team where he would see regular action in 2011. He didn’t like the city [Bulawayo] at first and would want to overstay in Harare. I would always push him to go back,” said Tichaona.
“That was the case last season when he was bored at Highlanders after spending the whole of last season on the sidelines. I told him to soldier on because there was no way he could claim to have been a former Highlanders player without even a substitute appearance,” said Tichaona jokingly.