By Mthokozisi Dube
YESTER year football greats have challenged the current crop of players to give the twelfth man that missing football flair.
Their eras are gone, but their contribution to the beautiful game will forever remain a treasure.
Stories of yester year football greats living in poverty after hanging their boots have dominated the media space, thus downplaying their contribution to improving the game.
Having starred for Highlanders juniors at the age of 13 in 1965 and ultimately graduating to the senior team in 1970, Lawrence Phiri, who started off as a goalkeeper and switched to other infield positions before becoming a player coach and manager, says the desire to entertain the fans was the motivating factor during their playing days.
“I joined Highlanders at the age of 13 and went on to graduate to the senior team in 1970 when we were in the super league. Today’s game has a missing flair. We used to play for the fans. Football was there to entertain the crowd,” he said.
Curtain raisers used to precede top flight league matches, giving time to the twelfth man to appreciate players graduating from the reserve team to the seniors, but that has since changed.
Netsai Moyo, a surviving member of the Highlanders outfit featured in Lovemore Majaivana’s song Badlala Njani, alongside Madinda Ndlovu and Peter Nkomo, runs an academy in Bulawayo’s Phelandaba suburb.
He says the return of curtain raisers should mark the first step in football development.
“Football has changed a great deal. Technology has come in handy, but surprisingly, our standards have fallen. We no longer see those juniors before big matches, but as an individual I have taken it upon myself to give back to the community by establishing an academy,” said Moyo.
A prolific striker during his playing days, Tobias Mudyambanje says a lot has changed from the time when the only motivation was giving fans value for their money.
“During our time, there was no transport to carry players to and from the session, but we made sure were there on time. We played for the sake of entertaining our fans. We have seen our players prioritising money more than the entertainment part,” he said.
It is sad that their contribution to the development of the game has remained an irrelevant matter, but the tag of a legend remains a life time treasure for many former football players.