HomeSportTalent, brains rolled into one

Talent, brains rolled into one

ARNOLD Tsunga, the prominent human rights lawyer, last week commented so eloquently in this paper on the legal implications of military appointments in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

Expert and well-thought-out views, I thought, from a distinguished professional and giant of the trade no doubt.

Where they speak of “beauty with brains” in the modelling industry, “sporting talents and brains” also aptly apply in the case of such men as Tsunga.

I have been privileged, over the years, to have watched some gifted sportsmen who have gone on to distinguish themselves at the pinnacle of the blue-collar world.

Tsunga is one.

From strutting it out on a soccer field as a defensive-minded player for former Zimbabwean top-flight club Tanganda, University of Zimbabwe-trained Tsunga is now a defender of a different type — a human rights defender and lawyer of repute so respected beyond the country’s boarders he rose to become a vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights.

Around the same time, a marvelously talented Dynamos FC forward called Tauya Murehwa, good enough to be voted Zimbabwe’s footballer of the year in 1995, was studying medicine at the University of Zimbabwe. No mean feat for a footballer, moreso one who had to almost single-handedly carry the expectations of the country’s biggest football club.

With Tsunga and Murehwa doing what they know best in the courtroom and in the surgical theatre, a fellow UZ alumni, Hilary Muzondiwa, has one of the biggest executive jobs in Zimbabwe at the moment.

As managing director of Unilever Zimbabwe, Muzondiwa’s task is growing the local business of the multinational consumer goods giant.

A big powerful lock forward for Old Hararians in the early 2000s under Godwin “Jaws” Murambiwa and later John Falkenberg, Muzondiwa added physicality to the pack of the country’s most glamorous rugby team, a club too good it supplied the bulk of its squad — including Muzondiwa — to Zimbabwe’s national team.

A mechanical engineering degree holder from the UZ, Muzondiwa had been one of the few players in the UZ rugby team of the late 1990s who were actually students at the country’s oldest university.

When the varsity team folded in sad circumstances around 1999-2000, Old Hararians became the biggest beneficiary of the unfortunate development as the best talent opted to join the “Old Boys”.

It was there that I was fortunate to see Muzondiwa in his element — a big, mobile lock forward and tower of strength in the OH engine room.

With the likes of Brighton Chivandire, Geoff Musekiwa and Michael Searing still around at that time, Old Hararians was certainly not in short supply of talent in a position often an archiles heel of Zimrugby.

As for Geoff Musekiwa, he had been the other student-player for the UZ who joined Old Hararians alongside Muzondiwa and together they went on to earn a handful of Sables caps under Murambiwa.

Another towering and physical lock forward of quiet and gentlemanly demeanour off the field, Musekiwa’s name, looking back now, will make a strong case for consideration if I was to enlist a fantasy all-time Zimbabwe XV from my time.

So for a man who could have so easily made a career out of rugby, considering how good he was at it, Musekiwa, unsurprisingly so, of course, chose the business world.

Now among the top business executives on the continent, Musekiwa has worked as business development director for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and currently is based in Zambia where he heads a financial services group.

While these men have gone on to play at international level or highest domestic level — there are also other great sporting talents I was privileged to witness, who did not play at that sort of level, but have made an indelible mark in the corporate world.

One is Ralph Mupita, a brilliant schoolboy cricketer in his heyday and now one of South Africa’s most sought after executives. Harvard Business School graduate Mupita, a civil engineer by training, works as chief financial officer for MTN, having previously held a top position with Old Mutual.

I also nostalgically remember the talents of Falcon schoolboy Qhubekani Nkala (brother of ex-international Mluleki Nkala), a polished charterted accountant now working as a senior manager with Standard Bank in South Africa, yet another youth cricket prodigy who in my opinion would have so easily made at it as a professional cricketer.

It is interesting to note how some of these guys I have mentioned have come through the UZ. While its greatest asset had been its reputation as a cradle of education in this country, the UZ proved, back then, that it could also stand in the forefront on the sporting arena as well. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case anymore.

Sport at the UZ is not part of the culture these days as it used to be.

One of the most successful sporting nations, South Africa, just next door, is a prime example. Tap into varsity sport as a launch pad to the highest level of competition.

Something to ponder on for authorities here.

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