When one hears the name Shepherd Muradzikwa, the wonder goal that the former Warriors and Rio Tinto legend scored on national duty against Namibia at the National Sports stadium quickly comes to mind.
By Brian Nkiwane
It was a long-range stunner, right from the top shelf, and when “Shapiro”, as he is popularly known, starts describing it, he does so with passion.
“I used to play football that caught most of the people by surprise. It was a harmless ball straight from Bruce Grobbelaar which I chested down right in the middle of the park, subtracted just one marker before spotting that the goalkeeper was off his line and was not even expecting me to shoot. I moved one step from the centre circle before unleashing a thunderbolt that ricocheted on the far top corner,” explained Muradzikwa in an exclusive interview with Standardsport on Thursday at his Seke Unit F home in Chitungwiza.
Having played football at the highest level in the country, Muradzikwa’s heart bleeds for Zimbabwean football which he says now needs miracles to come out of the doldrums.
Standing at 1, 9 metres tall, Muradzikwa, who turned 48 years old in February this year, cast a direct opposite of his actual age as he still looks younger.
Spotting a multi-coloured golf T-shirt, khaki trousers and adidas trainers, Muradzikwa had to wait for the Standardsport news crew at Makoni Shopping Centre to take them home and pour his heart out on the country’s football misfortunes.
Muradzikwa feels that former Zifa president Cuthbert Dube should have resigned long back to let the former players through the Football Legends Association to take over.
“Dube helped Zimbabwean football yes, but in the process took the game to its knees. I cannot imagine Zimbabwe not taking part in the World Cup competition for the first time. I think as football legends, we should take action before football disappears in this country. The aim in forming the Football Legends Association was to tackle issues like football leadership in the country,” he said.
He added: “The idea was to have all former players grabbing posts from as low as grassroots levels so that when it comes to voting, most of them would be part of that Zifa council, but the trick did not work well.”
He, however, threw his weight behind his former teammate Grobbelaar to take over the Zifa reins.
“I have no problem with businesspeople running football, but with the mess that Dube left us in, I think Bruce will be the ideal candidate. He played football at the highest level, he commands respect, and therefore he can lure back sponsors and support. I think he is the way to go.”
During his playing days, Muradzikwa was a target of all the big teams in Zimbabwe, but his relationship with his first premiership coach John Rugg saw him shun most of them.
Other former players have many things to show for their playing days, such as cars, houses and other properties, but Muradzikwa prides himself in having paid his lobola in full at the age of 19.
Born on February 6 1967 in Mutare, Muradzikwa did his primary education at Zamba before proceeding to Elise Glad Hill having started playing football at the age of eight.
It was when he was doing his Form Two that he joined Tanganda FC, which was in Division Two by then, before being lured to join British Leyland, a football team which was bankrolled by a motor assembling company and played in Division One.
While he was still trying to balance Division One football life and school work, as he was now in Form Four, things took a turn for him as his childhood lover fell pregnant.
“This is the time that I needed to be strong. I was only 19 then doing Form Four and playing in Division One, it was no joke at all.”
In 1985, Air Force side, now Chapungu, got promoted into the Super League and Muradzikwa and his friends had a chance to play against the team that was preparing for life in the league the following year.
“When we went for trials, I was the only one who was recommended by Air Marshal Perence Shiri. But my friends discouraged me from becoming a solder, so we left.”
While they were still pondering their next move, the idea of trying their luck at Hwange came up.
“This is when my football career started. I was picked by the then Wankie coach Paul Moyo and before long I was selected in the national Under-20 team under the guidance of Peter Nyama.”
In 1987, I moved from Wankie to Rio Tinto on a $10 000 (Zimbabwean dollar) price tag after Rugg bought me from Wankie. It was a lot of money after getting my 10%. I remember very well paying my lobola in full, including buying nine cattle. You know very well how difficult it is for a man to pay in full lobola in our culture.”
In 1988, Muradzikwa was one of the country’s best 11 players, repeating the same feat in 1992 as well as 1996.
Muradzikwa played for Rio Tinto until 1995, before linking up with Rugg at Arcadia United which reached the finals of the BP Cup in 1996, where he was voted player of the competition as well as top goal scorer of the tournament with nine goals.
However, Arcadia was relegated in 2000.
In the national team front, Muradzikwa cannot even remember how many times he was capped, having been with the team for a long time.
“What I can only remember are my best games, home and away. My best game in Warriors colours was against Ghana in Accra. I was given the assignment to follow up on Abedi Pele and I did it with a distinction. To spice up my performance, I scored another surprise goal right from the centre and Pele was the first person to congratulate me. ‘That was a great goal mate’ he said, and you know [you have done well] when you get such a congratulatory message from an icon of his stature. Unfortunately we lost 2-1.”
He added, “My second best game was against Namibia, as you have already alluded. That was another wonder goal of my career.”
Muradzikwa has two daughters — Doris (30) and Hazel (26). The man, who has attained Level four coaching badges, will be going for his CAF C Licence coaching course soon.
The interview had to be cut short as he was readying for a trip to Mutare where he is head coach of Division One side Three Leaves, as well as to attend to his personal project where he is building his house in the same city.