Four years ago, the football world directed its attention to the National Sports Stadium when record five-time world champions Brazil came to Harare.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
With 23 minutes of the game remaining on that June 2 2010 afternoon, Steven Alimenda stepped onto the giant stadium’s turf to help in the Warriors’ friendly match confrontation with the South Americans.
With the likes of Kaka, Robinho and captain Lucio having already been substituted, Alimenda was to come in and tussle against Gilberto Silva, Thiago Silva, Michel Bastos and Felipe Melo.
It was the greatest game of his life and his Warriors teammates who included Benjani Mwaruwari.
The world was keenly watching to assess how ready the Selecao were for the first World Cup on African soil which was just two weeks away.
While their eyes were on the global stars, they could not escape watching Alimenda running to Dani Alves soon after the match to ask for the Barcelona fullback’s boots and shirt for a memento.
Alves however gestured that they meet in the dressing rooms.
“No, people did not see well. It was actually Dani Alves who approached me later to offer me his jersey. He came to our dressing room looking for the number four who was me,” said Alimenda.
“I however gave the shirt to my father. Many people wanted it. I was offered huge sums of money for that jersey but I could not be tempted to sell it.”
Then at Highlanders, Alimenda was by his own admission at the peak of his career, the sentinel level he is currently re-establishing at Dynamos.
During those days, he spotted his trademark gingered head before his football fortunes waned after getting rid of the tint while at CAPS United.
Now, the tint has returned and it seems to have some magical effect on his game.
He has so far this season sounded the warning knell that he is set to be the old gritty midfielder he used to be.
“I have had the tint since my Lancashire Steel days as a teenager.
When I removed it while I was at CAPS, things did not go well for me. I have put it back and now I am in top form,” said Alimenda.
Talking about CAPS United, It is a club that brings sad memories to his mind and an institution he hates with so much passion.
Following a forgettable stint at the club, United dumped him at the beginning of the 2012 season.
“I have a lot of issues with CAPS United,” said Alimenda.
“Whenever we play against them ndinomuka chibhembenene [I become a beast]. I hate them so much because they nearly killed my career.
I do not want to mention names but there are very senior people there who pushed me out of the club. When Sean Connor arrived, he had researched and had a lot of plans for me but still, I was dumped.”
He spent the first half of the 2012 season inactive before finding home at Gweru side Hardbody for the other part of the term.
While on the sidelines, he had to make do with training on his own in his home town of Kwekwe. His career appeared to be on the brink of collapse.
But in came Kalisto Pasuwa.
“I give all the credit to Pasuwa for giving me a chance,” he said. “I approached him in December 2012. He interrogated me on whether I was really up for the Dynamos challenge. I told him I was. At least he knew me at CAPS United where he was assistant to Moses Chunga, so he asked me to come to training that December as they had not dismissed for off-season in preparation for the Champions League.”
Alimenda would remain behind after training, working out on his own and Pasuwa was impressed with such workmanship and registered him for last year’s CAF Champions League.
Turning out for Dynamos was always his dream as he almost joined DeMbare together with Zephaniah Ngodzo while at Highlanders in 2010, but Egyptian coach Mohamed Fathy blocked the move.
He joins Stewart Murisa in turning out for the three traditional giants. But he ranks his time at Highlanders as the most fruitful as it was there that he attracted Norman Mapeza, the then national team coach who thrust him into the fold in that blockbuster Brazil encounter.
Now in his second season at Dynamos, he has so far fully participated in nine of DeMbare’s 10 competitive matches, only missing the Independence Cup final in which he was being reserved by Pasuwa for the Bantu Rovers league match.
Pasuwa is rich in the defensive linkman position where he also has Walter Mukanga, Devon Chafa, Milton Makopa while Sydney Linyama and Thomas Magorimbo are part-time anchormen.
“Here at Dynamos we support whoever has been selected to play and we work for each other. The competition is healthy because it keeps one on their toes.”
He fondly remembers his Premier Soccer League debut on July 23 2006 while at Lancashire Steel under Willard Khumalo against Highlanders at Baghdad and a Ngodzo own goal off his shot handed the Kwekwe side a slender win.
Khumalo moved with him to Mwana Africa who then played in the CAF Confederations Cup but despite establishing himself, he has never appeared on the Soccer Stars calendar.
“That is my goal this year,” he said. “I also want to return to the national team and just like any other player, I dream of a foreign move. It is all about hard work and I hope we finish the season on a high note.”