SOME of his contemporaries have since ventured into coaching, while others have pursued other careers after hanging up their football boots, but veteran Chapungu player Philip Marufu continues to defy his age as he nears his second decade with the Gweru side.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
The cliché that springs to mind is that the 38-year-old Marufu is like fine wine — getting better with age.
The evergreen forward-cum- right back is not just getting better on the ball though — he’s getting quicker and stronger too — joining the other players who continued to shine in the autumn of their careers in the domestic Premier Soccer League.
It’s another chapter in a remarkable career which began in Chegutu in 1998 before he joined the Air Force of Zimbabwe side in 2001 at the age of 20 after being snubbed by Harare giants apparently because of his lack of height.
Marufu would go on to fulfil his dream of plying his trade at Dynamos almost a decade later while he also had stints at army side Black Rhinos and FC Saint-Eloi Lupopo in the Democratic Republic of Congo before retracing his footsteps back to Gweru.
Last December the veteran player was honoured for his loyalty to Chapungu after the club awarded him the “Distinguished Long Service” honour.
Opening up to the Sports Hub, Marufu described discipline and hard work as pivotal in his career.
“There is no secret to this, but hard work is the only difference between me and others. I manage my body very well with particular attention to diet,” said Marufu.
“We train as teams, but for one to be a cut above the rest, you should carry on with your training on your own. Many struggle for fitness mainly because they wait to train with the team, but if it’s a passion then one should be able to train on his own.
“Without passion in football, you won’t survive. It’s a game, which one has to play with his heart and maximum concentration,” he said.
He added: “You know our families look up to us. There are a lot of prejudices that come with being a football player. Some look down on you, some celebrate you, but the most important thing I have kept in mind is that football is where my family’s’ bread is buttered so I have to remain focused throughout.
“It all starts in the mind and then becomes a habit of training your body. The secret is just to be a disciplinarian on yourself when it comes to training. I am here because of simply that,” he said.
Marufu — who played alongside one of Chapungu’s finest ever players, such as the 2001 Soccer Star of the Year Maxwell “MaRhino” Dube and the likes of Innocent Chogugudza, Tawanda Marimo, Nkosithabile Nkala and Clement Mugari, who are already coaching — remains fitter in every aspect than an average professional footballer in the domestic topflight league.
Just like at the peak of his career when he was one of the most feared strikers in the country, Marufu’s free, fast and flowing style of play continues to distinguish him from nearly any player in the local league.
Now being employed as a right full-back by Chapungu gaffer Rodwell Dhlakama, Marufu has continued with his style of meandering on the wings of the pitch, strolling around his opponents effortlessly just like what he become famous for during his stint at Dynamos in 2014.
While at Dynamos, Marufu received a call-up to the Warriors squad for the maiden edition of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in 2009, where he played alongside the likes of George Magariro and Gilbert Banda, who have since retired.
Throughout his football career, his boyhood club Chapungu has remained very close to his heart.
“Chapungu has become my family, I have played for the team for years now and believe me it has been quite an experience,” he said.
“I have been there when the team won and when it lost, but my time here has been positive. We might not have won any lucrative tournament as a team, but our battles to prove our worth have been won many times.”
“I remember, there was a time I got injured and had to spend some time on the sidelines and that alone had a mental impact on me as a player. I started considering other options, but the club stood by me during that time until I got back to my feet to start the rehabilitation process and play again.
“It was a hard process but, they saw me through each stage,” Marufu said.
Marufu says his role in the side now also includes sharing his knowledge and experience with the younger players in the team.
“When you play with so many youngsters, there are certain responsibilities that I carry as a senior even without the coach telling me. That has given me strength as a player to keep on fighting and ensure that I adjust to those I play with,” said Marufu, whose 12-year-old son Tafadzwa appears to be following in his footsteps at a local academy.