BY Admire Jamu-Mlambo
Now that his playing days are over, former CAPS United and Hwange FC defender Milos Phiri works at Hwange Colliery Company as a truck loader.
But at 42, Phiri has not completely abandoned the sport that gave him fame and two local league championships.
With a Level Two coaching badge, Phiri dreams of full-time coaching one day, but in the meantime he is content helping to coordinate the Hwange Junior League.
The Sports Hub caught up with the two-time league winner as he reflected on his rise from an old Wankie Football Association feeder team Brazil to football giants CAPS United.
“I started playing football in primary school, but at Wankie Secondary School I was never given an opportunity to play as there was a lot of favouritism,” Phiri said.
“I then got an opportunity to play at some local teams including the Crusaders and a year later crossed the bridge to play for a team named Brazil. The two teams Crusaders and Brazil were more like area zone teams which were feeders to the Wankie Football Association (Wafa),”he added.
The Wafa League was vibrant from around the late 1960s to the early 2000s and produced a surplus of top players for Hwange.
Apart from Phiri, some of the stars to emerge from the Wafa League include Nyaro Mumba, Kakoma Kayonga, Barton Mwalukuka, Leonard Tembo, Isaac Phiri, Jimmy Sibanda, Posani Sibanda (late), Amos Rendo, Chutika Tembo, Nathan Madhuku and Skevah Phiri, to mention but a few.
The heavens opened up for Phiri in July 1996 when the then Hwange coach Jones Chilenji invited him for trials.
“My breakthrough in the Premier Soccer League was in July 1996 when the then coach Chilenji invited me for trials. Knowing that playing in the top-flight league was going to open avenues for my career, I then wholeheartedly put all my efforts and I signed a contract from 1996 to 2002, while playing as a right-back, the only position which I had known since primary school,” said Phiri.
In 2003, Phiri left the Matabeleland North-based team to join Caps United and signed a three-year contract, where he became a household name at the club, which was coached by the dreadlocked Charles Mhlauri.
“The Caps United of 2003 to 2006 was the most successful to say the least. We were united as players and we were crowned league champions for two consecutive seasons,” he sai
“We lifted almost every cup under Charles Mhlauri. We played as a family and the team had real players who were prepared to give everything in the field of play.”
CAPS United lifted back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005 powered by club legends such as Laughter Chilembe, Limited Chikafa, Lloyd Chitembwe, Leonard Tsipa, Brian Badza, Ian Bakala and Ashley Rambanepasi, among others.
And 13 years after leaving the Green Machine, Phiri remains a staunch CAPS United supporter.
He tips his former side to confound critics and thrive this season under Lloyd Chitembwe.
“I might be staying in Hwange, which is very far from Harare, but I still follow the Green Machine. “Chitembwe is a good coach and what is only needed is for the team to give the coach enough resources. For a team to perform, there must be factors to take into consideration like professionalism, remuneration and incentives to be given to players,” he said.
Phiri also believes his hometown team Hwange FC, comprising a mixture of experienced players and youngsters, is one for the future, which can go far if the team is not tampered with.
The former footballer is a father of three (two girls and a boy).
His 12-year-old son Nurudine Mailos is promising to follow his father’s footsteps.