It’s been 15 years since Alois Bunjira last donned the Bidvest Wits jersey, but those close to the club would see him at Milpark each time he was in the country.
Bunjira is based in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare where he runs a football academy – ALBUN.
As news filtered in that his old club was up for sale, the man popularly known as Gazza reacted with a lengthy, whole-hearted social media post. That post attracted hundreds of comments, with most people commiserating with him.
Clearly, the demise of the country’s oldest club did not only break hearts in South Africa, but beyond the borders of the Rainbow Nation.
In his own words, Bunjira who spent a combined 8 years at Milpark from two stints said: “What a way to lose a 99-year old legacy”. It was unfathomable to the former Zimbabwe international that a club with such a history could be sold as though it were a rotting muffin. The one muffin a seller wants to get rid of before it gets bad and unsellable.
“This is just too sad. The club is one of the oldest clubs in SA football history and I have a special place in my heart for that club,” Bunjira wrote.
That was followed by a big ‘WHY?’ in CAPITAL LETTERS. The move, which happened on the eve of the club’s 100 year celebration, left Bunjira baffled just like many other football lovers.
In the same post, Bunjira, who also had stints with Qwaqwa Stars, Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns locally, waxes lyrical about The Students.
“Yes, I first arrived in South Africa to play for Stars but after spending just 3 months at Qwaqwa Stars, Eddie Lewis bought me outright for Wits University and it was to be my home for the next 5 years. I have fond memories of the club as they took very good care of us as players. On and off the field – football wise and academically. It is a club that upheld professionalism of the highest order. A club that gave us the true meaning of Ubuntu,” wrote the studied former star.
Rightly so, a lot of people identify Bunjira with Wits where he arguably played some of his best football as evidenced by some of the individual accolades he captured.
He was the top goal scorer at the club twice and twice the Player of the year.
“Although I spent some time at Mamelodi Sundowns, which is my favourite club in South Africa, and had great times at Jomo Cosmos, most people identify me more with Bidvest Wits University FC because I spent the most time there. This is a club where I spent 8 years of my life.”
He recalls how he met great people at the club including De Sa, who rates the former Warriors star highly.
“I don’t know where to begin in expressing my sadness. I met great people at the club including the coach I rate as the best coach who ever coached me – Roger De Sa.”
Interestingly, De Sa recently singled Bunjira out as the best number 10 he ever coached when picking his Best XI.
“… I was pleasantly humbled when one (of) my former coaches at the club was to name his best 11 players he has ever coached in South Africa. After coaching Bidvest Wits University, Orlando Pirates, Platinum Stars, Ajax Cape Town etc in the SA ABSA Premiership, Roger De Sa named me in his best ever 11 and named me as his best number 10. Oh yes, I did excel and felt most at home in that position. I took home the compliment he poured on me “Special feet and ability to glide with the ball”. Coming from someone I regard as one of the best coaches I have met, I am over the moon.”
Consolation perhaps! “At least I can say goodbye to Bidvest University with a smile, having been recognised as of the best to play at the club and being the best number 10 ever at the club.”
He went on to pay tribute to Derek Blanckensee, touting him as “the best football manager I ever worked with”.
“The man instilled professionalism into me. I always tell my friends about his time management regime. I met great individuals like Gordon Ewen, Ashley Makhanya, Peter Gordon, Benson Mhlongo, Rowen Fernandez, Chancie Gondwe, etc.”
He also got to bond well with compatriots Charles Yohane, Stewart Murisa, Elasto Lungu, Nelson Bandura, Henry Mckop.
Like everyone else, Bunjira just won’t allow himself to talk about Wits University without mentioning Professor Schloss.
“Just to think that this club is up for sale and its history is up in smoke just breaks my heart. I spent most of my adult life at Wits University. Even when I moved to other clubs later, I would never miss a Friday night match at the Milpark Stadium. I really can’t believe this is all going away.”
He explained why he makes sure he passes by the University’s Campus. The reason is simple – “just to evoke the memories”.
In his mind, Bunjira had the youngsters he’d see each time he visited Marks Park.
“I always search for any football activity there, mostly football development tournaments, to go and watch. I wonder the feelings of those many development players at the club who would have felt they were that close to fulfilling their football dreams,” further wrote Bunjira, as he reflected on a legacy “thrown out of the window”.
Au Revoir Clever Boys, concluded Bunjira!
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By Mthokozisi Dube