BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
NOT many footballers get to make their debut in the local Premiership at 17, let alone for a big team like Dynamos. But teenage fullback Tinotenda Muringai did so, barely four months after writing his O’Levels at Oriel Boys High School in Harare.
In fact, following his first appearance for the Glamour Boys on the opening day of the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, Muringai missed just three or four odd games throughout the campaign and also became the team’s set-piece specialist.
Pre-season soon after joining Dynamos was important for Muringai as it gave him a glimpse of what it was like to play for the most successful club in Zimbabwe.
His first competitive match was a ZNA Charities Shield triumph against arch-rivals CAPS United after he was thrown into the deep end by then coach Lloyd “Mablanyo” Chigowe.
And he obliged by providing the assist for Ngandu Mangala’s goal, which was Dynamos’ second of the match as they ran out 2-0 winners.
Muringai reflects on a dream-like season that transformed him from a mere boy to a man worthy to compete with the best in the country’s top-flight league overnight.
“I grew up hearing that the premier league was not for young players. So I hoped that I would get my chance when I am 23 or 24 years old, but God had other ideas and I managed to play a lot of games in my first season,” Muringai said in an interview with Sports Hub.
After realising how demanding the Dynamos fans are, Muringai had to make an important decision that helped him throughout the season.
“During my first pre-season after I joined Dynamos, we would go to places like Karoi to play friendly games. That’s when I realised that it’s not easy playing for Dynamos and I had to grow up and become a man overnight.
“Everywhere we went there were plenty of supporters following the team even during preseason. When we played the ZNA Charities Shield match against CAPS United in the National Sports Stadium there were plenty of supporters and I was not used to playing in front of so many fans, singing songs playing drums,” recalled Muringai, who turns 19 next month.
“They would hurl insults and whistle when one made a mistake, and would applaud when a player did well. I realised that I had to make sure that I did not panic.
“I had to make a decision that I was no longer a kid, but an adult, so I had to apply myself like one. I told myself that I am the man and had to refuse to be bullied on the pitch no matter who I was playing against,” he said.
Coach Chigowe had put together an inexperienced squad that included unknown young players such as Nigel Katawa, Emmanuel Jalai, Jarrison Selemani, Try Andre Moffat, Tawanda Chisi and Muringai, to mention but a few.
And the majority of them became regulars even after Chigowe left and coach Tonderai Ndiraya took over the reins.
Muringai remembers Chigowe’s words in the dressing room ahead of his premier league debut against Mushowani on the opening day of the season.
“In the first match he said to me in the changing room: Enda unotamba mupfanha wangu, hapana chinotyisa, bhora rakangofanana (Go out there and express yourself, there is nothing to be afraid of because football is the same). Those words helped me a lot.
“My first league match was unbelievable, the ground was almost full and I couldn’t believe that it was me already playing premier league football a few months after finishing my O’Levels. And with the fans it was the same story, when you make a mistake you are in for it, but when you do something good it was different, so I learnt how not to focus on the fans but on my game from the first day,” he said.
And playing for a big club like Dynamos has its own repercussions as even going to the shops can be hassle.
“A lot of people know me now. “When I go to the shops I have a lot of people greet me, others pointing at me and others gossip about me even when I am there. But generally I spend most of the time indoors and it saves me a lot,” Muringai said.
The Young Warriors player has lofty dreams.
“When I was growing up I used to watch football on TV and I would always say to myself I want to appear on TV playing football one day. But now I want to go far playing football. My dream is to play in Europe either for Manchester City or Real Madrid. I want to play football in Europe in my career,” the Friendly Academy graduate said.
While he was pleased with his first season in the top-flight league, Muringai singled out as his toughest match the controversial drawn game away in Hwange.
“I am happy with the 2019 season because I learnt a lot. The toughest match for me was when we went to Hwange. It was strange in that after just 15 minutes I felt so tired like my mouth went dry and I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
Judging by the strength of the team this year, Muringai feels the upcoming season could transform their lives forever.