BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Former Warriors captain Willard Katsande has made over 300 appearances for South Africa football giants Kaizer Chiefs in a stint spanning 10 years and still counting.
Indeed a club legend, the 35-year-old midfield hard man is also part of the elite list of player who have skippered the country at the Afcon finals when he led the team in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon four years ago.
And throughout his illustrious career that began at Frontier Steel via Highway and Gunners to the South African Glamour Boys Katsande has often made reference to his “son” Kelvin Katsande.
In some quarters Kevin has been referred to as Katsande’s younger brother and by others his older brother’s son, but it is the football icon’s love for the young man that has never been in doubt.
In an in-depth interview with Kaizer Chiefs’ YouTube Channel this week, Katsande reveals how Kelvin became his son and turned him into a father from a tender age.
“My upbringing was tough because my father died when I was 10 and my sisters most of them were married. By that time my mother was in the city and my mother decided to relocate to the rural areas and I stayed with my sister the fifth born,” Katsande explained.
“By the time I was 13 that’s when she gave birth to the boy I always call my son Kelvin. The father rejected my sister and refused responsibility for the pregnancy. It was painful, so I was there for my sister from day one till now
“He is the one who made me have purpose in life. Why? He made me leave junior football to go play with older people so that I could get a source of income to look after him. That made me strong, that made me who I am today.”
Now 21, Kevin is the camera person behind most of the fashion pictures and videos that Katsande has beenposting on his social media accounts in the past couple of years and became so popular during the initial Covid-19 lockdown period.
Interestingly, Katsande, who is married to Memory Dowerowe, has four children of his own, but they often live in Kevin’s shadow.
Speaking on the occasion of the recognition of his 301st Chiefs appearances, Katsande nostalgically reflected on his career and how he fell in love with the game.
“My love for soccer started when I was six years old. It was in 1992, my father took me to the first football match I watched. My father gave me the name Willard after a Zimbabwe legend called Willard Khumalo. He was just giving me the name because he loved the guy, he loved soccer though he didn’t play soccer,” the Mutoko-born star revealed.
“I joined a local team when I was 12 called NRZ (National Railways of Zimbabwe), it was one of the best teams in the city for juniors. When I was 14 that is when I left junior football to go and play with older people because of my situation.
“I used to come home with my shins swollen because those people used to kick me. The coach used to tell the players that if this kid is on the field don’t feel sorry for him, go mark him the way you mark anybody else. That’s what made me tough.
“Even when I went home with swollen shins my mum used to boil water to treat me and then I would go again because obviously I needed to play football so that I could gain something. My mother would take that money and buy food for the baby and my sister and the family.”
Affectionately known by the alias Bute in local football circles, Katsande has popularised his own nickname and refers to himself as Boss Yamboka Kitoko Makasa on social media.
He explains the origins of that nickname.
“I have a couple of nicknames and I gave myself the nickname Boss Yamboka Kitoko Makasa. “Why I love it is because I have a friend who is a musician in Zimbabwe, he is from DRC. He learnt Shona so he teaches me their language from DRC called Lingala.
“So in Lingala, Mboka means country, Kitoko Makasa means everything is nice, everything is beautiful and everything is positive. It’s something you just give yourself to give yourself confidence, it’s not arrogance,” Katsande said.
And after 10 years at Kaizer Chiefs, Katsande’s influence at the club appears to be waning and he has been used sparingly this season with just 10 appearances.
However, Katsande is pleased with his achievements for Chiefs and only wishes his father had been around to watch him play the game.
“For me from where I came to be where I am now, I am very proud of myself, of what I have done for the club and what I am still going to do to add on those 301 appearances he send.
“It’s been a good journey for me and I am proud of myself and I am sure if my parents were here, especially my father because he never saw me play but he wanted me to play football, he was going to be proud.
“I want to be remembered at Chiefs as a guy who was selfless and was ready to give everything for the team. As long as the team is doing good, that is the most important thing to me.”