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Tshuma relives Warriors’ Ebola nightmare

HE is fondly remembered for being named man-of-the-match in the then Ebola-ravaged Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), even when the Warriors were drubbed 5-0 in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in June 1995.

yesteryear profile with FORTUNE MBELE

Johannes Tshuma

Johannes Tshuma

Former Highlanders, Hwange and Eagles goalkeeper Johannes Tshuma vividly recalls making 27 brilliant saves from 32 shots on target in front of a partisan capacity crowd of Congolese fans in Kinshasa in what he describes as the most memorable game of his footballing career.

Tshuma’s call-up to the senior national team had come as a surprise even to himself as he only received the news via a phone call on the eve of the trip to Kinshasa.

Most senior national team players had refused to travel to the Congolese capital in fear of contracting the deadly Ebola virus that had killed hundreds of people in the vast Central African country.

Veteran coach Gibson Homela, assisted by Barry Daka, had to hastily assemble a makeshift team to fulfil the fixture and Tshuma was one of the beneficiaries and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

“I was at home minding my own business and I received the phone call with the news that I was supposed to travel to Harare from where we would proceed to Zaire [now the Democratic Republic of Congo] to represent the country. It [the team] was, I would say, a third string national team and we assembled and went to the Zaire,” Tshuma said.

Tshuma says the Afcon qualifier is one game that he will never forget having been thrust into the deep end as a fringe goalkeeper who had sometimes been called up to train with the likes of Japhet Mparutsa and the late John Sibanda.

“It is one game that I will never forget. The crowd at the national stadium in Kinshasa was above 100 000 and they would clap and shout Ebola! And you would feel the stadium shaking and vibrating. It was their version of the Mexican Wave but it was a thunderous shout and we were intimidated,” he recalls.

“The game was so intense and one-sided, to the extent that the referee and some Congolese players would come to me and say I should take a rest, that I had done my part because I was under immense pressure. [In the] first half we were down 3-0 but they kept coming at us like nobody’s business and in the second half we conceded two more goals.

“After the game, the statistics showed 32 shots on target, of which five went in and the difference gives you my saves. I was shocked and surprised that I was named man-of-the-match on a losing note after conceding five goals. I will never forget that game,” Tshuma said.

Turning 55 in July, the unheralded Tshuma, a Fifa-certified goalkeepers’ coach, dreams of establishing the first goalkeepers’ academy in the country in Bulawayo in the mould of the former Zimbabwe Saints, Eagles and Highlanders’ goalkeeper Pernell McKop’s Just4Keepers goalkeeping academy in South Africa.

“I have six young goalkeepers that I train at AmaZulu every Sunday and anyone interested can pitch up. I have approached guys like Trevor Caresle Juul [former Zifa president] to see if he can assist and I have also made contacts with Pernell [Mckop]. But my appeal is for football authorities in the country to come up with these courses for goalkeepers’ instructors. We have so many courses for coaches which are based on infield play but nothing on goalkeepers’ coaches,” he says.

Tshuma started playing football when he was at Mpumelelo Primary School turning out for Bulawayo Wanderers Juniors in the 1970s.
Wanderers were to change to Eagles, for which he also played in the senior team.

“I started playing as a midfielder. I would say I was a very good midfielder and we were playing a crucial game for the Under-18s in iminyela and our goalkeeper got injured and I replaced him when we were leading 2-0 against Highlanders juniors coached by Ali Baba. My colleagues were against that move but I had a brilliant performance and they enjoyed it and from there on I never looked back. The guys actually pushed me to play in that position,” Tshuma says.

In 1979, he played his first game for Bulawayo Wanderers senior team against the late Morrison Sifelani-coached BAT in Hippo Valley, which they won 4-3 in a league match after their first choice goalkeepers Victor Dhliwayo and Annanias Dube did not turn up.

In 1981 he joined former great goalkeeper Lucky Dube and Mckop at Eagles where he was joined by Alban Mafemba and the late Zebron Magorimbo when Dube had left to join Dynamos.

In 1982 he was between the goalpost for Eagles when they were in Division One, beating Highlanders, Dynamos and Rio Tinto in the preliminaries of the Zifa Cup before losing 2-1 to CAPS United in the final.

He said he was applauded by one of the country’s top marksmen, the late Shacky Tauro, for a sterling performance in that game.

When Eagles folded in 1986, Tshuma briefly stopped playing football to concentrate on his studies where he trained as a boilermaker before joining Hwange in 1992.

“My stay at Hwange was very fruitful with another goalkeeper Isaac Tshuma and Marvelous Nakamba’s father Anthony. I replaced Ben Zelengwe at Hwange and we went on to win the Heroes Trophy, beating Caps United 2-1 at the National Sports Stadium in 1994,” he says.

At the behest of the late Mercedes Sibanda, Melusi Nkiwane and Cleopas Dlodlo, Tshuma was lured to Highlanders in 1996 where he played until he hung his gloves in 2002 and became a goalkeepers’ coach.

He says he brought the eccentric Tapiwa Kapini to Highlanders and also worked with Washington Arubi.

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