The Midlands town of Shurugwi has for ages been known for its scenic landscape that includes the famous Boterekwa escapement and gorges, and also for the notorious frees-pending artisanal miners (makorokoza) more than anything else.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Yes, in sport the mining town has been home to several top football players who have featured at the highest level of soccer in Zimbabwe.
Names like Gibson Homela, James Takavada, Kingstone Rinemhota, Asani Nhongo and the late Joseph Machingura quickly come to mind.
While the now defunct Zimasco Football Club, owned by the town’s ailing chrome mining company, churned out all these great names and many others, there has never been a premier league team to emerge from Shurugwi.
Now, about 19km outside the town along Masvingo road, a Premier League dream is brewing. A group of players under the name Todal FC has just grabbed a ticket into the Zifa Central Region, Division One League this season.
Formed in 2010 and owned by Todal Mining, which owns a 4 500ha platinum concession in Shurugwi rural, Todal FC has brought Division One football into Shurugwi.
“It was a motivation that there was no team from Shurugwi playing football in Division One and it is greater motivation that no team has ever brought premier league football here. We are really looking forward to breaking ground,” Todal FC manager Isheanesu Burombo told Standardsport
This year Todal FC were crowned Midlands Province Division Two champions ahead of Nkayi, winning 21 games, drawing five times and losing twice the entire season.
“The team, initially composed of only employees of Todal Mine but we realised that the Shurugwi community as a whole was lagging behind with no single team playing at least in Division One. The company took advantage of a good corporate responsibility initiative and here we are, now aiming for the Premier League,” Burombo said.
What makes the project interesting is that it has opened doors largely to players from the local rural communities with just a few coming from Shurugwi town.
“We tap our talent from surrounding Nhema rural areas such as Ndawora, Makotore, Mukandapi, Chachacha, Marishongwe and Tongogara,” Burombo added.
“There is great talent and potential here which can compete in the premier league and even as we get into Division One, we will identify players from these areas as well as Shurugwi town.”
He said the Midlands Province 2015 Agricultural Show Cup winners are not under pressure to win the Zifa Central Region ticket into the premier league but would want to first cement their position in Division One.
“It’s a long-term vision to play in the Premier League but we are not putting ourselves under any kind of pressure as we play in Division One next year. All we want to do is to establish ourselves in the division and finish in a respectable position and launch an assault for promotion the following year,” he said.
While Nyuchi Dzinoruma — as the club is popularly known — gets a lot of help from Todal Mine, they are seeking more partners and sponsors to start life in Division One, which is relatively expensive to run.
According to Burombo, the football club’s success has gone ahead of the company plans which was yet to become fully operational, hence sponsoring a Division One team might become too much of a burden.
“The company will obviously take care of the basic things but it should be noted that fulfilling matches in Division One is more expensive. The idea of seeking partners is to keep our players well-remunerated and motivated in that league,” said Burombo.
After spending the first three years from its formation playing social soccer, Todal FC affiliated to the Midlands Division Two league in 2013 and finished third under the guidance of Bongani Sibanda who is the coach to date.
Last year the team finished second, losing to Gweru United on goal difference and this year they came good with 24-year-old striker Andrew Kanchwanchwa banging in 13 goals and emerging the division’s top scorer.
Other players who excelled in the Nyuchi Dzinoruma line-up include the captain, Tinashe Chibharo, Justine Mutuma, Takudzwa Evans, Justice Chemazo, Malvern Vurayayi, Leeroy Dube, Gerald Pukuta, Munyaradzi Nyamazana, Godknows Mapasure and Thabani “The Rock” Mbengo, among others.
Todal FC patron Bruce Honey, from whom the club nickname was derived, alongside chairman Oliver Gonyora and his executive, have a long-term vision of establishing a vibrant football academy to drive the team to great heights.
“As a club, we are looking at a bigger picture, thus establishing a vibrant junior football academy and taking advantage of the surrounding schools. We have schools such as Tongogara, Rusununguko, Hanke Mission and many others from which we unidentify and tap talent,” Honey said.
“We usually play social soccer with some of these schools as a way of identifying talent and it is our desire to have an Under-19 team that can compete in Division Two as well. We want to have a strong junior football culture, just like what FC Platinum is doing.”
Nyuchi Dzinoruma wear blue and white stripes when playing at home and have been pulling huge crowds in recent times. The crowds are set to swell even more when the mine’s football pitch has been approved by Zifa as being good enough to host Division One matches.
With a place in Division One already secured, can Todal FC finally bring Premier League football to rural Shurugwi in the near future? Only time will tell.