BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
TALENTED yet troubled former Soccer Star of the Year Denver Mukamba’s football career seemed all, but over two years ago after stints at Dynamos and CAPS United ended unceremoniously.
A video of the talented midfielder playing street soccer with a group of kids barefoot in 2019 summed up his faltering career.
This was a player destined for greatness, but the lure of women, booze and drugs was a stumbling block.
In 2017, Mukamba even turned to God as popular prophet Walter Magaya invited and prayed for him, but to no avail, while CAPS United boss Lloyd Chitembwe, a known disciplinarian, also tried and failed to get the best from the errant former Warriors captain.
But at his lowest point in 2019, coach Rodwell Dhlakama gave him a kiss of life and took him to Chapungu and immediately he flourished.
And when Dhlakama joined Ngezi Platinum Stars, he took the midfielder with him and early this year Mukamba was part of the national team that represented the country at the Chan finals in Cameroon.
Suddenly Mukamba has become a role model footballer and there have not been any negative reports about him in the media in a long time.
One wonders what Dhlakama did to completely transform Mukamba’s life and career.
“I have had to work on his psychological fitness, which is an area most coaches fail to work on in their management of players. I know how to transform a person by simply working on their behaviour and how they relate with other people and I work hard on that,” Dhlakama told The Sports Hub.
“Credit also goes to the player because he really had to do something as his career was almost over the hill. I am glad that he managed to change his ways and for me it was a moral victory to see him bounce back into the national team and represent the country at the Chan finals in January”.
At the height of his career, Mukamba won the best player gong on the local scene in 2012 while he also captained the Warriors in a World Cup qualifier against Egypt in 2013, at just 21 years old.
With that feat, he etched his name into the history books as one of the youngest players to ever lead the national team.
But a move to Bidvest Wits in South Africa was his downfall.
“Mukamba is a role model in the way that he plays on the pitch and he has to understand that there are a lot of people and young kids, who look up to him. It was also important that he became a role model in the way that he conducts himself even in his personal life away from the field of play.
“There is a psychological component to every human being and parents, teachers and coaches forget that a child has to be fit psychologically even when they are good at something.
“One can be talented in football and also be weak psychologically. There has to be a balance between chronological age and mental age. And you discover that he may have remained young in his mental age and someone had to make him grow to match his chronological age,” he said.
“Because of money, he may have thought he could abuse drugs or womanise, which means he was mentally young. What may have impeded on his moral development is that punishment is the best way of handling through suspending him or taking his money.
“But ultimately Denver needed to be loved more than anything and punishment made him more arrogant.”
Dhlakama’s first encounter with Makamba was in the Zimbabwe Under-17 set-up back in 2007 and 2008.
He was part of the group that had the likes Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona, Eric Chipeta and George Chigova, among others.
The 47-year-old gaffer reckons he was talented but because he was not from an academy, it showed in his behaviour.
“During lockdown I never heard that Denver was up to mischief or he played money games, otherwise he made sure that I would not hear it in the event that he did. But the change is there for everyone to see,” said Dhlakama.
Mukamba is set to play his first competitive match in Ngezi Platinum Stars colours this season when the PSL cup competition begins next week and Dhlakama has tipped the player to flourish in the next three years.