PLAYING professional soccer abroad is every local footballer’s dream and when Rodreck Mutuma joined South Africa’s Absa Premiership side Bloemfontein Celtic in January 2013, naturally, he was jubilant.
BY ALBERT MARUFU
In anticipation of not only an improvement in his game, but bank account too, Mutuma had every reason to celebrate.
However, little did he know that one year four months into his contract, he would be in the company of his friends, this time not only celebrating his 26th birthday, but ironically the termination of the same contract.
Instead of being disappointed at joining the growing list of local players — Tafadzwa Rusike, Simba Sithole and Oscar Machapa — who came back home after being off-loaded by South African clubs, Mutuma is actually happy to be home.
A day before his 26th birthday on April 5, Mutuma received the news that he had been eagerly waiting for in a long time.
“I was not playing so when Celtic released me on April 4, it was sort of a birthday present. My birthday fell the following day and I really wanted out of the club to start afresh at another club where I can play. I wasn’t playing so it was no use staying at the club,” said the 2011 Golden Boot winner.
“We were like a family at Celtic and my former teammates came to my house on April 5 to celebrate with me. We had a small party as I bade them goodbye and they knew I was desperate to leave and come back home. In my first season I played 13 games and never scored a goal. That’s failure.”
But what went wrong for the self-styled “Prince” who arrived in South Africa carrying a weight of expectations following his exploits at giants Dynamos?
“The coach [Ernest Middendorp] felt that I was not good enough and he rarely used me. Everything happens on its own time and I just have to be patient,” said Mutuma, who was signed by former Phunya Sele Sele coach Clinton Larsen.
He however does not have any regrets on joining the club, but does not see himself going back there in the future.
“When one door closes, another one opens. Obi Mikel of Chelsea once failed his trial at Ajax Cape Town, but today he is playing for Chelsea FC, one of the biggest clubs in the world. I can still pick myself up and realise my dream of playing for a big club like Liverpool FC or Manchester United,” he said.
However, though he failed to make it on the soccer pitch, Mutuma has fond memories of the Free State Province and its people.
“There is no doubt that in terms of support base, Dynamos has more supporters than Celtic. However, if there is anything I love about the team’s supporters, it is the passion they have for their team. Even when their team is 4-1 down, they keep supporting the team,” he said.
Mutuma however believes that in terms of competitiveness, the local league is at par with the South Africa one.
“Our league is just the same as that of South Africa, but they are more professional in their approach. Those guys are just very professional,” he said.
Mutuma started his career at then Division Two side Mvuma FC Stars in 2003 before joining Zimbabwe Alloys FC in 2006.
The towering striker then joined Mimosa FC (now FC Platinum) and Quelaton before moving to the now defunct BVM in 2010.
The second half of the 2010 season saw him joining Sporting Manhenga before he was signed by Dynamos in 2011.
His debut season saw his 14 goals helping Dynamos to their first championship in four years.
However, despite winning the Golden Boot, his six yellow cards in the same season disqualified him as that year’s Soccer Star of the Year finalist.
Will he reignite the form that took him to South Africa? Time will tell.