By Michael Kariati
THERE are certain footballers, who while invariably, performing consistently at the top level for either their club or country, remain in the shadows of their teammates.
Their manner is so devoid of flashiness that spectators sometimes forget about them. But there comes a time when it is clearly evident that without this player, there is something big missing in the whole team. These are unsung heroes of the game.
One such player is former CAPS United goalkeeper Stephen Chisango – a member of the great Makepekepe side of the 70s, and 80s – that not only won the Super League title in 1979, but also swept all that stood before them, earning them the famous nickname the Cup Kings.
Although the CAPS United faithfuls still talk with affection about the late great Stanley Ndunduma, Joel Shambo, Stanford Mtizwa, Shacky Tauro, Friday Phiri, Charlie Jones, Charles Sibanda, and Tobias Moyo, forgotten is Chisango, a vital cog of that great Cup Kings machine.
“Football fans have their own players whom they admire. Unfortunately, I was not one of them, maybe because of the position I played. The fans seem to have their attention more on who is scoring the goals,” says Chisango.
Chisango was in 1978 part of the Green Machine team that won promotion into the then Super League —- now the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League — when Makepekepe were then known as Caps Rovers.
The former goalkeeper also boasts of the Super League championship medal and countless other accolades including the BAT Rosebowl, the Chibuku Trophy, the Rothmans Shield, and the Castle Cup won four times in a row from 1981 to 1984.
There remains a raging debate on who is CAPS United’s greatest ever player with some pointing at Joel Shambo also known as the Headmaster and others singling out Stanley Ndunduma, — the Zimbabwe Soccer Star of the year in 1981 and 1985. But Chisango believes Tauro — the 1979 Soccer Star of the Year was a cut above the rest.
“The others were talented, entertained the fans but when it came to winning games it was Tauro. That is why we called him Chinyaride. He came up with goals when everything seemed lost,” reflects Chisango.
Now resting at his home in Warren Park, Chisango credits CAPS United for the beautiful house he owns. He built his house from the money made from playing for Makepekepe and additional funds from his wife Barbara Mwedzi.
He lamented the declining standard of football in the country, which he blamed on lack of commitment from the players and a shortage of qualified coaches with a traceable football background.
“Our players are putting money first instead of the game. During our days, our aim was to make our fans happy by winning games and money would come as a reward. Not these days, players want to get paid before they even get into the pitch. That is not football anymore,” said Chisango.
“Players want to move to foreign clubs not to play football but to make money. How can one consider himself good enough for a foreign club after only one season in the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League?”
Chisango said the situation has not been helped by most of the coaches, some of whom, he says “never even played football at school level.”
The now 65-year-old Chisango, who once coached ZFC and Cimas in the lower divisions is also not happy in the manner former players are being treated by their clubs.
Although not happy with the standards of the domestic game, the former Green Machine goalkeeper however expressed satisfaction with the strides the senior national team has made in recent years and hopes that one day, the Warriors will qualify for the World Cup
“We have passed the first stage by qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations. The next stage is the World Cup. A number of our players are playing in Europe, and I believe with that experience, we will one day make it,” said Chisango.
After spending 39 years working for pharmaceutical company CAPS Holdings, the now retired Chisango now runs a thriving poultry project at his Warren Park home in Harare.
He refused to rule out a possible return to football, but probably in a coaching capacity at school football level.
Chisango is married to Barbara and the couple has seven children and seven grand children.