BIRTHDAY night out for a good old friend Michael Chisetera a few years ago took us to Takashinga Cricket Club, right in the middle of Highfield, the iconic township of our nation’s capital city where some of the greatest Zimbabweans trace their roots.
Sports Panorama: Enock Muchinjo
Now, most of you will of course not know who on earth Michael Chisetera is.
But Big Mike — as we call him — is a legend of sorts in his inner circles, a guy whose penchant for pranks and a beer is well-known and that he has recently had a job with Delta Beverages is quite ironic, a source of many jokes and laughs among his peers.
Chisetera is a contemporary of Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and Stuart Matsikenyeri.
As kids, they grew up playing cricket together, and were the first bunch of boys to go to Churchill Boys High School as one big group — and excelled in the game at this great conveyor belt of Zimbabwean sport.
Taibu, Masakadza, Sibanda and Matsikenyeri — all four from Highfield — went on to play for Zimbabwe with varying success. Our friend Big Mike, who is from Glen Norah, could only go as far as a handful first-team league games for Old Hararians, teaming up with national team players like Gary Brent, Dirk Viljoen, Richard Sims, Sean Ervine, among an array of red-hot talent then littering the Zimbabwean cricket club scene.
Pretty much resigned to being a social cricketer after dropping down to the second XI at OH, but still enjoying it as those familiar with him would expect, Chisetera hung up his pads very early in his career, if one can call it a career at all, sometime in his late 20s to early 30s.
Vusi Sibanda, classmate and best friend of Chisetera at Churchill, likes to reminisce about the good talent his old mate was, ever talking about the player we could have seen had Mike remained focussed on cricket like his contemporaries.
Perhaps Mike’s biggest claim to fame, one mutual friend once teasingly suggested, was growing up a few houses away from that of the great George Shaya, and being known and so close to the family of the record Zimbabwean footballer the year award winner.
His father’s brother, Wonder Chisetera—the former Black Aces star player—lived just next door to fellow footballer Shaya in Glen Norah.
So as a kid, Mike grew up under the sporting influence of his uncle as well as the legendary Dynamos and national team magician.
So on Chisetera’s birthday night at Takashinga in 2011, it so happened that, apart from the cricket guys and much to my pleasant surprise, the bar was also filled with well-known footballers of yesteryear, all with strong links to the area. Glen Norah’s David Mandigora, the former Dynamos midfield star.
Highfield’s Onias Kadewere, the now late youth football coach and father of current Zimbabwe starlet Tino Kadewere. Highfield’s Themba Sibanda, the former Kambuzuma United and AmaZulu goalkeeper and older brother of cricketer Vusi. Highfield’s Francis “Gazza” Jayman, the former Black Aces stalwart and half-brother of ex-Takashinga and Old Hararians fast bowler Alexander Mlambo.
As the drinks flowed, and topics shifted from one to another, it came to some kind of intriguing High-glen contest: which of the two neighbouring suburbs had produced the better sportsmen?
An outsider, I sat back and neutrally immersed myself into this absorbing yet good-natured debate, and I have been thinking, eight years later, just how this small but healthy cross-township rivalry has contributed to the success of national sport in our country.
Footballers, cricketers, past, present—all having a go at each other, high regard for each other unquestionable, for the pride of their section of the capital city’s high-density suburbs.
Debate raged with no outright winner until one chap, must be one of the cricket guys from Highfield, thought he could settle it outside sport.
“Well, we have Oliver Mtukudzi, and who do you have?”
Hearty chuckles followed, erupting around the bar in unison, itself a unanimous consensus that there surely could not be any son of these parts of Harare greater than the iconic Zimbabwean musician, who passed away quietly at the Avenues Clinic on Wednesday — sending adoring fans worldwide, and indeed Tuku had many, into mourning.
There could not be further debate.
Highfield-born and bred, yes, but Mtukudzi had become a source of great national pride through his musical genius, Zimbabwe’s own gift to the world.
And that is what capped the debate on that pleasant night — between Highfield and Glen Norah, between present and yesteryear — that Mtukudzi’s gift for song had provided an inspiration to all present that evening.
It is music that has meaningful impact, from a fine artiste with ability to speak to the soul.
No doubt, Mtukudzi’s music had been a soundtrack to the endeavours, joy and despair of many — including the sportsmen of our country as testified by all that September night back in 2011.
Voice so golden, words so rich, sounds so melodious — it is hard to accept that there won’t be any more coming from Tuku as he bids farewell to a world that fell in love with his talents, and all the good that this global culture icon represented during his lifetime.