FORMER free scoring CAPS United striker Alois Bunjira is often credited for single-handedly delivering the clubs’ first post-Independence local soccer league title back in 1996.
yesteryear profile with MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Scoring an astonishing 24 goals from just 19 appearances, Bunjira was eventually beaten on the goal-scoring charts by rival Dynamos striker Makwinji Soma Phiri, who scored 25 times.
Such was his proficiency in front of goal that a story began making rounds among fans that he was using juju, whistling to the ball to come to him whenever he made a foray into the opposition box.
Now a local radio and television sportscaster, owner of a football academy as well as a marketing company, Bunjira is satisfied with what football has given him.
However, looking back, Bunjira believes he didn’t reach his full potential as a player in respect of the talent he possessed.
He believes he should have had a successful career in Europe but his youthful arrogance and big-headedness stood in his way.
“Personally, I think I didn’t reach where I was supposed to reach in terms of how talented I was. A lot of things happened but looking back, I think I could have achieved much in Europe. I derailed myself from achieving what I should have achieved, but you will read more in my book which is coming [soon],” Bunjira said in an exclusive interview with Standardsport.
It’s not that he did not have his fair share of opportunities to ply his trade in Europe. he had chances at RC Lens in France, at Slovakian giants SK Slovan Bratislava and even in Poland — but he blew them all away.
“I went for trials at Orlando Pirates after finishing my A’levels and I ran away before the trials were finished; went for trials in Racing Lens in France but I decided I did not want to be there and I came back. I then went to Slovakia where I played for nine months but they cancelled my contract at Slovan Bratislava because I had to leave the club for the national under-23 and national team fixtures time and again.
“At one time I had to spend two months away on international duty and they were not happy. Wieslaw Grabowski sent me to Poland. The club wanted to sign me permanently but I did not want to stay there and I came back home,” Bunjira said.
As fate would have it, Bunjira went on to have a successful career with Caps United where he spent three and a half years before trekking to South Africa in 1999 where he was to spend the next 12 years of his career.
This was the same lad who had abandoned a Mechanical Engineering degree scholarship at Western Kentucky University in the United States in 1994, barely nine months into the course.
“This is why I came up with the academy [Alban Football Academy] because I don’t want these guys to make the same mistakes I made, so they are learning from my mistakes. I was stubborn, was too talented for my own good and I was not patient with people who wanted to help me, so they are learning from the right person,” he said.
Bunjira, together with founding partner Kelvin Nyazema, formed Alban Football Academy in 2012 in Chitungwiza where he grew up to give back to the community, but the project soon outgrew the area.
“We started Alban Football Academy in 2012 and initially it was for Chitungwiza, but then when it started to grow I began to have calls from as far as Glen Norah, Mabvuku, Mufakose from boys wanting to join the academy so we moved to David Livingstone Primary in Harare to accommodate everyone.
“The idea was to identify young talent that had not been identified and to groom the young boys as well as equip them with the basic football skills they need to achieve success. A child that is well-equipped will play soccer earlier than one who is growing naturally. I have been through this road at Darryn T. I know I was well-equipped technically and psychologically, which is why I played football early,” the Alban Academy director explained.
Born on March 29 1975, Bunjira grew up in Chitungwiza where he started playing football at the age of six for an under-8 side called Black Wolves in Zengeza 1.
He then joined another local team called Hotspurs under-12 team where he met long-time friend Stewart Murisa, with whom he would form a deadly combination at Caps United years later.
Bunjira passed through the Black Rhinos under-14 and under-16 books before landing at another Chitungwiza-based side Darryn T. He won the national under-16 league alongside Gift Muzadzi, Edelbert Dinha, Lloyd Chitembwe and Norman Mapeza, beating Benjamin Nkonjera and Peter Ndlovu’s Highlanders in the final in 1989.
During a period where Grabowski fired a host of senior players, Bunjira and a bulk of players were promoted into the senior team.
In his first full season in 1992, he made it onto the soccer stars calendar. His memorable match is the 4-0 hammering of Caps United in the Castle Cup final.
Some of the legendary players in that team were Japhet Mparutsa, Forbes Ndaba, Dinha and John Phiri, Chitembwe, Murisa, Norman Mapeza and Felix Antonio.
Despite spending 12 years of his career in South Africa, the 41-year-old former Warriors striker rates his championship winning year at Caps United as the best of his career.
“That’s one year I would never forget. Everything about Caps was just brilliant, from the players to the coaches, the fans, the travelling and to cap it all, I was scoring goals for fun,” he reminisced.
“There was a time when I was just sitting with friends and I remember talking to the kit manager, the late George Takodza, saying ‘this is not normal’. I was shocked by my performance because the scoring was unusual as I scored 24 goals in 19 league games that year.
“I know people started to say I was using juju, but the secret was training and the foundation I had at Darryn T under Grabowski. We would spend hours and hours practising crossing and we forged solid combinations as a team,” he said.
With 59 goals to his tally in the Makepekepe green and white stripes, Bunjira is seriously contemplating coming out of retirement for just a season to get that one goal that would get him to the 60-goal haul.
“My friends are actually pushing me saying just play one more season and get that one goal and get to the 60-goal mark. It would be good excitement for the fans and it’s something I am considering. I am still really sharp, you should come watch me train with my boys one of these days,” he said.
Having been the Caps United spokesperson in the first of the current season before quitting to focus on his academy and other things, Bunjira is still tipping the Harare giants for the title this season.
“If financial problems do not derail them, I think Caps have a stronger squad to win and if it were not for those challenges, they would have wrapped it up by now. Mapeza is doing a good job with FC Platinum but I feel Caps players are more experienced.”