ZIMBABWE football legend and former soccer star of the year finalist Carlos “Murehwa” Max is one of the few players to have played in almost every infield position at the highest level in his illustrious career that lasted over a decade and a half.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Emerging from the then football craze mixed race community of Arcadia, he went on to turn out for Arcadia United before moving to Caps United, then Dynamos before winding up at Arcadia.
Arcadia United gave him his first trophy, while Caps United filled his trophy cabinet and Dynamos helped him lay his hands on the elusive big one — the league championship — at the twilight of his career.
Max, an exciting roving fullback during his heydays, would ultimately achieve his dream of donning the Zimbabwe green and gold jersey as part of Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream Team.
Standardsport caught up with the ex-star defender at Arcadia Sports Club where he is now chairman as he went down memory lane.
“What I wanted was to play for the national team and I achieved that. Ultimately I can say I had a successful football career because then we were not exposed to opportunities of going to play overseas like the way it is now,” he said.
Having started playing football at Moffat Primary school in Arcadia in the 70s where he even failed to command a regular in the first team jersey, Max developed a natural love for the right back position at an early age.
Because of his versatility, coaches would try and use him in different positions as he grew older and developed at Arcadia juniors, but he would always find a way back to his favoured role.
It would be no surprise that when he graduated into the first team at Arcadia United, he was thrust into the striking position and he thrived.
“In my first season at Arcadia I played as a striker, even though I was a right back and I scored 17 goals. It’s just that I was not comfortable in that position and I went back to my right. I think I achieved what any footballer would want to achieve in that position — playing for my country,” he recalled.
In 1984 he led his team to a runners’ up position on the log table alongside guys like Majid Dhana, Reg Payne, Joey Antipas, Mark Abrahams and Anthony Kambani behind champions Black Rhinos.
He then won the Chibuku Trophy with Arcadia United in 1985 before in-house problems developed at the community-owned club which forced his move to Caps United in 1988.
“Caps United were a much more organised team and this is where I won every cup possible except the league title. I moved to Caps thanks to my elder sister Theo, a staunch Caps supporter back then who used her contacts that resulted in the move,” Max said.
He has fond memories of playing in the same team with Joel Shambo who he regards as the finest player he has played with in the Makepekepe green stripes.
“Joel Shambo was very good; he was my best player at Caps United during my time. His ability, his marking, his passing was something else. Unfortunately injuries cut short his career. Caps had a lot of talented players like Oscar Motsi, Tobias Sibanda, Brenna Msiska and George Nechironga, among many others,” the 53-year-old former footballer said.
Max will also not easily forget the match in which he helped the then Cup Kings beat Highlanders to lift the Independence Cup back in 1992.
“I had a fantastic game and I was voted man of the match. I never really walked to the dressing room as the fans carried me. I played in the midfield after injuries to our midfielders prior to the game,” Max related.
His adaptability saw him play in almost all positions, save for the goalkeeper’s role during his stint with CAPS United.
While he played right back for CAPS 90% of the times, he played left back for the national team.
At CAPS United, Max won the BAT Rosebowl Challenge, Rothmans Cup, Independence Trophy, and the Natbrew Cup, among other competitions.
He also made it to the 1992 Soccer Star of the Year calendar where Wilfred Mugeyi emerged the winner.
Upon recovery from a terrible knee injury he was offloaded by the pharmaceutical side who were under the tutelage of Steve Kwashi, but former team- mate Sunday Chidzambwa knowing Max from the national team brought him to Dynamos.
He teamed up with the likes of Kaitano Tembo, Francis Shonhayi, Henry Charles and Memory Mucherahowa to lift his first league championship in 1995 .
After a successful season at Dynamos, he went back to Arcadia United where he helped them reach the BP Cup final before losing to his former team Caps United in 1997.
Ghanaian coach Ben Kouffie gave Max his first national team cap in 1983 and he would remain part of the squad until the mid-90s. He vividly remembers his best performance in national team colours.
“My best match in the national team was when we played against Nigeria in Nigeria in 1989. I was marking George Finidi and I did my job very well. The Nigerians did not believe that I played my football in Zimbabwe, they thought I was a Europe-based professional,” he said
In the Dream Team, Max started most matches from the bench including when the Warriors beat South Africa 4-1 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in 1992 as he caught the eye of a South African club, Dynamos.
A loan deal with the Johannesburg side saw him spend six months playing in the South African league.
Max has nothing but praise for Dream Team coach Reinhardt Fabisch.
“What made Fabisch a good coach is that he brought the very best out of everybody in terms and skills and what a player can do. Some of the players he brought into the national team are players we never thought we would see in the national team.
“Mercedes Sibanda was just about not playing at Highlanders that time but his whole football career was revived. Other players you would never have heard of include Melusi Nkiwane but he played for the Dream Team,” Max said.
In 1998 Max hung his boots and became Arcadia United’s coach, alongside Joey Antipas and Moses Chunga in a team that produced the likes of Wesley Gilbert and Miguel Lemming.
Having started his own courier company, his involvement in football became minimal for a while. In recent years he has teamed with the other Zimbabwe football legends as they bid to find a place in local football with the mind to run it in the end.
“When we came together as the legends, the general sentiment was we need to take over Zifa. We need to run football but we noted that we have to start at club level. Rarely do you find top clubs being run by former players, except maybe Dynamos.
“Look at CAPS United administration. It has no former players. At Highlanders you might find former players here and there. Former players in Zimbabwe only get involved as coaches, otherwise you never see them again in football. That needs to change,” Max said.