“IF Rodger Milla of Cameroon rose to international stardom at the 1990 World Cup aged 38 and went on to play in another World Cup final four years later, why can’t I play up to that age as well.”
BY ALBERT MARUFU
This was a bold declaration from forgotten former Warriors, Dynamos, Free State Stars and Supersport United defender James “Van Damme” Matola.
Matola, who will celebrate his 37th birthday on May 31, last week resurfaced in local football when he turned up at CAPS United training sessions in a bid to revive his waning career.
As if to turn back the hands of time to his prime days, Matola turned up donning a red and yellow track jacket that was used by Zimbabwe en-route to the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Back then, Matola — known for his suicidal diving headers — was an integral member of the Warriors defence together with George Mbwando, Zvenyika Makonese, and Charles Yohane.
Fast forward to 2014, Matola, whose contract was not even renewed by Namibia first division side Monotronics FC last year, now has to suffer the embarrassment of undergoing trials in a bid to impress CAPS United coach Taurai Mangwiro.
Though Matola has not lost his tenacity, many fans are wondering why he has decided to come back from retirement.
“The idea of coming back was not influenced by monetary gain, but I want to demystify the myth in local football that once you are over 30 years, you are over the hill,” said Matola.
“I will continue playing as long as my legs allow me to. Soccer players gain intelligence with age. Most teams make the mistake of offloading experienced people each time they have young talent. The team needs experienced players who will be like leaders.”
But will he be up to the rigors of the Premiership if he is offered a contract as is likely to be the case?
“I signed a short-term contract with the Namibian club Monotronics in 2012 after turning out for South Africa’s Batau FC. I decided to come back home because I was missing my family,” said Matola who never hides his love for daughter Whitney.
Having made his name at Dynamos, a team which he also captained before flirting with a number of South African teams, many would have expected Matola to rekindle his relationship with the league champions.
“I am open to any club that needs my services. I have not signed any contract with CAPS United but just asked to train with the team to keep fit. I am grateful to coach [Taurai] Mangwiro who afforded me the opportunity to train with the team,” said the defender who started his career at the now defunct Circle United in the late 1990’s.
Matola started his career with Circle United before moving to Dynamos in 2002.
He then left the club in acrimonious circumstances to join the now defunct Buymore FC.
Matola then joined South African side Supersport United for a season before packing his bags to join Free State Stars for three seasons.
Since then he has played for a number of lower league clubs such as Carara Kicks, Batau FC and Namibia’s Monotronics.