The Warriors’ thrilling 2-1 victory over a star studded Mali side on June 5 2011 in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at a packed Rufaro Stadium in Harare will for a long time be remembered as the Ovidy Karuru show. He terrorised the West Africans all afternoon with his deceptive moves, speed and trickery.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Karuru, then aged 22 and plying his trade for French side US Boulogne, was the star of the show on that cold winter afternoon as he turned on the style with a performance rich in both quality and substance.
Although it was Musona, then a 20-year-old rising star, who scored both goals – on his home debut in the Warriors’ colours – it was Karuru who was deservedly named man-of-the-match after a vintage individual performance which revived the national team’s hopes of qualifying for the finals which were co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Karuru was fearless, always running at the Mali defenders and eliminating his markers with ease and it was only natural that he had a hand at both goals, including winning the decisive last-minute penalty after being fouled inside the decisive moment of this tie which Musona converted.
Such was Karuru’s impact that many predicted a very bright future for the lanky midfielder, but he never lived up to his potential and in fact, his career has been on a freefall ever since due to a combination of injuries, poor form and ill-advised transfers.
Exactly six years after that magical performance at Rufaro, instead of being one of the Europe-based stars, Karuru, who once featured in the French Ligue 1, finds himself at South African National First Division side AmaZulu.
Karuru, who has been picking up the pieces at AmaZulu, was a surprise selection into the Warriors squad for next week’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia.
His selection was met with criticism from some quarters, with some observers questioning if Karuru deserved another dance with the Warriors after his failure to make an impact at Kaizer Chiefs.
Interestingly, Karuru has just returned to competitive football after a long spell on the sidelines and it awaits to be seen how he will grab this major lifeline.
His coach at Amazulu, Joey Antipas has backed the player to rediscover the form that once made him one of the stars of Zimbabwean football.
“Personally, I think he’s still a top player and it’s unfortunate he didn’t get many opportunities to prove that when he was at Kaizer Chiefs,” Antipas told Sports World yesterday.
“I had worked with him before at the national team and I knew what he could do for us if he received the necessary support. As someone who was a bit short of confidence and match fitness, it was obviously going to take some time for him to return to his best but so far he has proved to be a revelation for us.
“He is back to the player we all know he can be and was a valuable addition to Amazulu through scoring goals and creating opportunities for his teammates,” Antipas said.
Perhaps Karuru’s problems started when he joined South African side Kaizer Chiefs as a free agent after opting not to renew his contract with OH Leuven, relegated from the Jupiler League at the end of the 2013-2014 season.
After managing only five appearances in the South African Premiership during his ill-fated two-year stay at Kaizer Chiefs from 2014 to 2016, Karuru was deemed surplus baggage at Chiefs.
So dire was Karuru’s situation at Kaizer Chiefs that his contribution was limited to the reserve side which competes in the Multichoice Diski Challenge.
Karuru’s comeback also coincided with claims that Warriors coach Norman Mapeza was instructed to leave some players out of the team he selected for the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) football qualifiers against Liberia on June 11 at the National Sports Stadium.
Mapeza reportedly left out former captain, Willard Katsande and three other senior players – Nyasha Mushekwi, Cuthbert Malajila and Matthew Rusike – from his squad at the behest of Zifa president, Philip Chiyangwa.
While Mapeza has denied the claims suggesting that he wanted to rebuild a youthful team, it is the selection of players such as Karuru, Thabani Kamusoko and Tendai Ndoro, who are all approaching 30, which has raised more than a few eyebrows.
Last week the Masvingo-born midfielder also spoke of his delight at being selected to the national team and promised to repay the faith shown in him by Mapeza.
“It feels good to be back in the national team. I know there is competition in there but will do my best. The coach has given me the chance to play again and I aim to do my best for the team,” Karuru told reporters on the sidelines of last week’s training session.
“I have been working hard and wanted to get some game time that’s why I moved to Amazulu. Joey is someone I had worked with before and it’s been a great period working under him,” he said.
Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari (FC Platinum), George Chigova (Polokwane City, SA), Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders),
Defenders: Partson Jaure, Qadr Amini (Ngezi Platinum), Onismor Bhasera (SuperSport, SA), Teenage Hadebe (Chicken Inn), Jameson Mukombwe (Black Rhinos), Eric Chipeta (Ajax Cape Town), Sydney Linyama (Black Rhinos), Lincoln Zvasiya (Dynamos)
Midfielders: Thabani Kamusoko (Young Africans, Tanzania), Devon Chafa, Ronald Chitiyo (Caps United), Simon Shoko (FC Platinum), Kudakwashe Mahachi, Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows, SA), Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns, SA), Marvellous Nakamba (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu, SA)
Strikers: Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates, SA), Evans Rusike (Maritzburg United, SA), Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende, Belgium), Prince Dube (Highlanders)