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Makore’s bittersweet Olympics reflections

MIGHTY Warriors striker Rutendo Makore will always be remembered as one of the key players of a heroic Zimbabwe women’s football team that made history qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games last year.

BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

Rutendo Makore tussles for possession with an Egyptian player at AWCON in Cameroon last year
Rutendo Makore tussles for possession with an Egyptian player at AWCON in Cameroon last year

She even contributed to Zimbabwe’s first ever goal at the global games, unleashing a thunderous shot which Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult found too hot to handle.

In the end, Kudakwashe Basopo had the easy task of tapping in the rebound to score a goal that the world, maybe except for the Germans, stood up to salute.

For Makore, affectionately known as Madzimai’in local football circles, it was an experience that only dreams are made of.

She thought by making the grade to play at the Olympics, her life would never be the same again, but 11 months down the line nothing has changed.

“I honestly thought our personal lives were going to change forever after qualifying for the Olympics but nothing changed at all,” Makore opened up in an exclusive interview with Standardsport.

After struggling through thorns to qualify for the Olympics and the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON), there was no reward for the Mighty Warriors.

Makore elegantly dressed
Makore elegantly dressed

Even the residential stands that the government publicly promised them have never been spoken of ever since.

“We did not get any stands after all and we do this just for the love of the game. We kept telling each other that it might not be today or tomorrow but one day all will be well,” she said.

“That is how we managed to keep going, supporting each other as a team regardless of our challenges. We learnt not to expect anything from the association and we just did everything knowing that we won’t get anything. We wanted to market ourselves.”

Madzimai never dreamt of going places with sport when she was young and making it to Brazil was mind blowing.

It explains why she cried uncontrollably when the team beat Cameroon 1-0 at Rufaro Stadium to book a ticket for the Olympics in October 2015.

“It was a great achievement, the highest point of my football career to play at the Olympics. And although we did not do well, just rubbing shoulders with the likes of Alexandra Popp the Germany striker was like rubbing shoulders with the Messi of women football,” the 24-year-old striker said.

“I never dreamt going that far with sport. I never thought people were going to read about me in the newspapers, let alone see me on television when I was young. I thought I was just doing sport like every other kid in school, so I am happy with what I have achieved.”

Makore’s goal now is to play in Europe before she retires and playing at the Olympics was a best platform to market herself.

However, while playing at AWCON last November, Makore impressed an Egyptian club who signed her on a two-month contract at the beginning of the year.

“The owner of El Elemayeen Football Academy was at AWCON last year in November in Cameroon. He saw me playing and was impressed before talking to our Mighty Warriors’ manager,” she said.

“I played there for two months and I was their star because in the six games that I played, I scored eight goals. They want me again and are currently talking to my team, Black Rhinos Queens.”

Many may have wondered how Makore, being a woman ended up choosing a football career.

Well, she didn’t have to. Her father Kudakwashe Masumbuko was a footballer who played for Mhangura, Amazulu in South Africa, Lulu Rovers, Zimasco, Hunyani and Ziscosteel.

And her brother Hamilton Masumbuko, now playing at Midlands State University once turned out for the now defunct Monomotapa.

Football runs in her blood.

“I think it’s an in-born thing. I come from a sporting family; my father was a footballer, my brother is a footballer, my mother played netball, my late sister played volleyball and I played a lot of sports in school,” the former St Eric High School student said.

“I used to be good at long jump, sprints and netball in primary school and when I went to secondary school, that’s when we had girls’ soccer.”

Even before she went to secondary school, she would spend a lot of time with boys playing football on the streets and she still enjoys that.

“I used to play football on the streets a lot back then and I still do when I am at home, that’s how I love football. The good thing for me is that my family supported me all the way. In fact, they were fascinated by my love for football and would come to watch me all the time,” the Norton-based star said.

Interestingly, Makore has also played club netball briefly, turning out for Harare side Renaissance.

Her soccer career started off at Mbare-based club Cyclones Stars in 2007 before moving to Aces Academy and then joining Black Rhinos Queens the team she currently plays for.

Starting off as a defender, Makore was moved upfield at Aces Youth Soccer Academy and since then, she has been scoring goals for club and country with reckless abandon.

She made her debut for the Mighty Warriors in May 2008 at a Cosafa tournament in Angola when she was only 15 and since then, she has been part of the team.
Unlike many of her peers in the Mighty Warriors, Makore has managed to maintain her femininity despite being a footballer.

“People see us in different ways because of our behaviour outside the pitch. I am a lady who plays football and I am proud of myself as a lady. By looking at my dressing and how I carry myself away from the football pitch, you cannot tell that I play soccer.”

Unfortunately for potential suitors, although she is not yet married, she says she is in a “good” relationship.

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