Football fans affectionately christened him “Gwinyaz” or “Gentle Giant” because of his built. But he was far from gentle in front of goal.
yesteryear profile with munyaradzi madzokere
In a Castle Cup match back in 1976, former Rio Tinto and Chibuku bustling striker, Victor Mapanda needed just three seconds to score an audacious screamer from the centre circle.
No sooner had the referee blown the whistle to signal the start of the match did Mapanda see legendary Zimbabwe Saints goalkeeper Musa Muzanenhamo off his line and bang! Rio Tinto was one nil up.
His assets in the field of play were power and precision, which means he never really needed to get into the box to score goals.
Mapanda and his wife Zodwa were surprise visitors at Alpha Media Holdings – publisher of The Standard – offices last week as they came to announce a new football project they are embarking on, but first he had to talk about his famous “three-second” goal.
“I scored a goal in three seconds, which I’m sure still remains the fastest goal in Zimbabwe football history. It’s a match I will never forget, playing against Zimbabwe Saints in a Castle Cup quarter-final match,” Mapanda told Standardsport.
“I got the ball in the centre circle from David Chisambe and shot it from there. Muzanenhamo had ventured off his line, I saw it and thought with the weight of the ball I could score, and score I did. I used to train to hit the ball from the centre and that day, it paid off,” he continued.
Although it has not been documented, Mapanda insists the nets were shaking three seconds after the start of the match.
The 66-year-old former footballer who started playing football at Mbare’s Mai Musodzi Boys Club as a teenager in the late 1960s, burst onto the top-flight scene with Gatooma [Kadoma] United in 1973.
Mapanda scored a massive 36 goals for Gatooma Utd – just three behind the league winners Metal Box’s Chita Antonio, which prompted Harare side Chibuku to buy him.
He quickly gelled into the Chibuku side, playing alongside the likes of Posani Sibanda, David Muchineripi, Charles Gwaze, Roderick Muganhiri and the rest of the club’s class of 1974 to win the Castle Cup.
“Gwinyaz” did not last at Chibuku as he was wooed back to Kadoma by the late revered former Warriors coach John Rugg to come and play for Rio Tinto, which is where his legend was established.
“Everything that happened in my career was just a big bonus because I started playing just for fun at a boys club like most young men of my time. Coaches always encouraged me to aim higher, I then turned out to be a great striker,” he said.
Playing for Rio Tinto almost guaranteed a place in the Zimbabwe [then Rhodesia] national team since his club coach Rugg was the coach in charge of both teams.
He earned nine international caps.
Mapanda was the first Zimbabwean player to play for South African giants Orlando Pirates, with whom he had a nine-month stint in 1979.
“I was the first Zimbabwean to play for Orlando Pirates alongside the likes of Partson Banda and Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba. I was a direct replacement for former South African player Jomo Sono after he left the club to go to the United States,” Mapanda said.
Orlando Pirates had watched Mapanda play in a match that pitted Rhodesia versus South Africa, then known as the Springboks, and pursued his signature.
However, Mapanda’s football career ended prematurely when he decided to join the National Railways of Zimbabwe where he served as a train driver for 16 years.
A football legend in his own right, Mapanda did not get much fortune from his exploits in the field of play, but it sure got him a “good thing” – his wife Zodwa.
Zodwa shared their love story in which Mapanda didn’t have to come up with great pick-up lines whether by default or by design.
“When I met him I didn’t know it was the [Victor] Mapanda my mother, who loved football, used to talk about since she supported Rio Tinto and knew the whole team. He just said ‘do you know who I am?’” Zodwa recalled.
“He knew a little information about my parents since he stayed in Kadoma, so at least we could relate. When I introduced him to my mother as a friend, she recognised him and told me that he was a top football striker. After that, I knew I had found myself a legend and there was no way I was going to let go of him,” she laughed.
Even today, people stop her in the streets to ask her if indeed it is the legendary striker walking with her, but she is not happy that her husband’s legendary status is only recognised by people in the streets and not by Zimbabwe football authorities.
“I am married to a legend but my concern is that I don’t see the recognition that comes with that legendary status because they are not honoured in any way in Zimbabwean football.
“Clubs in Zimbabwe should take up these legendary players as advisors because they have a lot to contribute to our football. Something has to be done about our legends. Least of all we should have a Hall of Fame where we will celebrate our unsung heroes,” she pointed out.
But that is not the real story behind the Mapandas’ unexpected visit to Alpha Media Holdings.
Having coached Black Rhinos, Blue Swallows and Chapungu before taking a break, Mapanda is back in football after starting an academy to groom strikers.
“I have started an academy whose main thrust is to churn out strikers for local football. We used to score over 40 goals in one season in our day and nowadays our top scorer finishes the season with just 11 goals, it pains me a lot.
“That’s why Victor Mapanda is back to groom strikers. We welcome all players but our focus is strikers. The dream is to produce top strikers for the country and then export that talent to Europe,” Mapanda announced.
City Study Academy has offices in the Harare city centre and conduct their training sessions at Greenwood Park
Perhaps Zimbabwe football will again start to witness more of the three-second goals from the centre circle over time.