Mkhokheli Dube: Zimbabwe football’s decorated journeyman

As he edges towards the end of his career, after a football journey that has spanned over two decades, only those that hold a deep grudge against him can say Mkhokheli Dube does not love the beautiful game.

In the modern game, where most attackers hang up their boots in the early 30s due to tired legs or after having grown tired of spending their weekends being kicked in the park by over-eager defenders, Dube is a rare breed.

A career that began on the dusty streets of the high-density suburb of Tshabalala in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city Bulawayo has seen him odyssey through two continents and three countries.

It has been a decorated journey in which he helped his clubs pick up an impressive array of silverware and personal accolades along the way.

At 38, Dube is still a relatively young man, but when he finally breathes his last, a very long time in the future hopefully, on his tombstone should perhaps be engraved the words, “Here lies Mkhokheli Dube, six-time Zimbabwe PSL champion, Superliga title winner and Michigan Bucks Hall of Fame inductee.”

Even so, such words would not justifiably sum up the kind of career that Dube has enjoyed. A tombstone only has room for so many words after all. In many ways, his achievements in his home country are unprecedented.

He was a key part of the Highlanders sides that won a record four titles on the trot at the turn of the millennium [won the last three of those]. And despite being surrounded by a galaxy of stars in that record-breaking side, he managed to finish as the club’s top goal scorer during the campaign that claimed the last of that quartet of titles.

As if that run was not enough, he would, later on, claim a hattrick of titles with Zimbabwe’s new undisputed football kings, FC Platinum, who were crowned champions between 2017 and 2019.

Sandwiched between those titles are stints in the US with Lindsey Wilson, Delaware Dynasty, Michigan Buck, and Coastal Carolina.

Playing in the Major League Soccer with New England Revolution and Chicago Fire marked the zenith of his career. On his return to southern African soil, he turned out for AmaZulu in Durban before joining Chicken Inn and Bulawayo City in his native Zimbabwe.

It was only this year that he signed a one-year contract with first division side Talen Vision who are keen to tap on his vast football experience. After a lifetime on the road, entertaining fans in arena after arena, the man that Highlanders fans playfully christened “Mkhonto” as he spearheaded their attack, believes it is time to guide the next generation of stars from the dugout.

After all, he is already the holder of a Caf C coaching license, a BFut [Brazilian Football] Level 4 coaching license, and a Level 3 Zimbabwean coaching certificate. Since 2015, he has been Zebra Revolution Academy director of coaching despite his continuing responsibilities on the field of play.

“Retirement is on the cards, having spent 20-plus years playing, I think it’s time. I have an academy called Zebra Revolution, which I started in 2015 and the boys that I started with are grown and I’m planning to register them in the second division,” he tells FARPost during a brief visit to Johannesburg this week.

In a career littered with memorable highlights, talk of his time at the trailblazing Highlanders still brings a sparkle to his eye. “Of all my achievements, the sweetest was my first championship for Highlanders. It was the best because it was the time I announced myself to the big league,” Dube says.

“The first championship with FC Platinum was also special because the club had ambitions to win the league title which had been eluding them. It prompted them to change their recruitment strategy and they added experience in their ranks, which worked.

“In my first year with them, we won the club’s first championship and did it two more consecutive times. Another big moment for me was winning a Superliga title with New England Revolution in a foreign land. It felt really good,” says the 2009 Revolution top goal scorer.

It is understandable that Dube perhaps treasures that first triumph with Highlanders the most. Essentially, during that championship, he fulfilled a childhood dream. It was a dream that had begun on the Barbourfields Stadium grandstands where he often went to watch the black and white-shirted boys with his dad.

For a boy from Bulawayo, football honours do not come higher than championship triumphs with Highlanders. In fact, it was double the joy as he got to share the same locker room with one of his childhood heroes, Zimbabwean football legend Adam ‘Adamski’ Ndlovu.

“My dad introduced me to the game. From a tender age, he used to take me to Barbourfields and that’s when I fell in love with the game,” explains Dube. “That Highlanders of the ’90s was the best. My favourite players were Madinda Ndlovu and Adam Ndlovu. May his soul Rest in Peace. I was lucky to play and learn from him at the end of his career. Adam was one of the coolest guys, always willing to help youngsters and guide them in the right direction and he was the one who helped me get signed at AmaZulu in South Africa when I got back from the US.”

Perhaps Dube’s most enduring legacy, despite all the accolades, will be how he was a distinguished and disciplined servant of the game throughout the time he played the beautiful game. One does not make it to the age of 38 without a strict and disciplined regime of conditioning.

It speaks volumes that throughout his career, he never had any significant disciplinary issues off the field either. That saw FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza signing him when the striker appeared as if he was bidding farewell to his playing days.

“When I brought him in [at FC Platinum], it was the second half of the season and I wanted someone with experience. I thought with the experience from his time in America he would give us another dimension.

“He was a good example to our players. He was an exceptional professional, he looked after himself well, he is a family man. You could tell he grew up where there was real football played. His attitude and behaviour was top-notch. He’s a true professional,” Mapeza tells FARPost.

He adds that the former youth international looked after himself well. “He would not do nights out. He was also cautious about what he ate.” While his time at Highlanders brought him glory, Dube acknowledges that time served at various sides in his career fostered professionalism within him.

“From my stint in the US, I learned to be a professional, it was a wake-up call from what I was used to,” he says. “Being in a foreign country makes one stronger because you have to be on top of the situation all the time, you have to be better than the locals, your productivity has to be above par, hence the need to be more professional. By professional I mean being punctual, eating right, taking care of my body, resting, doing extra training, being my biggest critic. Taking responsibility and being accountable.

“I’m a passionate person, sometimes my passion becomes an obsession, which led me to take my football seriously because I realised I was making money doing something I love. So, eating right and taking care of my body has helped me stay this long. I’m also grateful to the Almighty for keeping me from any serious injuries,” he says.

Despite a career that conforms to the highest standards of professionalism, his time at AmaZulu remains a blight on a career that is otherwise without blemish. “South Africa wasn’t much of a success as the coach that signed me for AmaZulu was fired six months later,” he adds.

As if to underpin his overall sense of purpose and drive, Dube is one of the footballers that has pursued his education, keeping an eye on the future even as the adulation of thousands poured on him from the stands.

“Along the way, I realised it was important to get an education,” says Dube. “It is always key for any footballer because it’s an unpredictable career. Football is a contact sport, anytime you get on the field it’s a 50/50 chance of getting injured, so it’s always ideal to have a backup plan.

“And for me, education and football got me an opportunity to go to the US. I went to the US on a soccer scholarship, and without education, I wasn’t going to the US. I studied Business Administration and Communications.”

As he winds down on an incredible football journey, Dube is eager to make an indelible mark on the next generation of Zimbabwean football stars!

RELATED STORY: Esrom Nyandoro: The charismatic teenage actor turned football star

By Mthokozisi Dube

Carrick brushes off ‘myth’ that Ronaldo can’t press

Michael Carrick is confident that Cristiano Ronaldo will not struggle in the intense pressing game Manchester United interim coach Ralf Rangnick is set to implement.

Rangnick, who is still waiting for a work visa to start his spell as interim coach at Man United, prefers a high-pressing style and many believe that Ronaldo can’t press and will find it hard to fit into the German’s plans. But Carrick has dismissed the ‘myth’ that the 36-year-old is unable to press.

“Maybe it is a myth – maybe that’s how it is. He’s played in enough teams over the years and been successful. He’s been able to play a variety of ways and kept scoring goals for every team he’s played for, and he’ll continue to score goals – no doubt about it,” said Carrick.

Ronaldo re-joined Man United at the start of the season and he is the top scorer for the club with 10 goals in 15 appearances this season. And considering this record, Carrick was asked why he decided to leave out the Portuguese star against Chelsea last Sunday.

“There are a lot of things you have to take into consideration when you make a decision on picking a team,” Carrick said.

“Some players bring things to the table; other players bring other things to the table. You have fitness, tiredness, freshness, there’s tactics, there’s personality and character within that. It seems like it was a big decision but really, between us and [for] me personally, it wasn’t. You can ask Cristiano. The way he responded was perfection really.

“Around the dressing room he was incredible, he supported the players. I went in to do my half-time team talk and he was warming up 10 minutes in advance ready to come on in the second half. I think a lot can be made of it and spinning it in a negative way but behind the scenes the reality is very different.”

Carrick has no doubts the squad will be able to match the 63-year-old’s demands. Players adapt – there’s different skills and styles you have to have,” he said. “We have played different styles since we came here. Ralf has a terrific pedigree over a long period of time and had good success with that, so I am sure that the players are looking forward to the days and weeks ahead.”

Marumo dismantle 10-men Galaxy

Two first half goals and one in the second half  were enough for Marumo Gallants to secure a vital 3-0 victory against TS Galaxy at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday.

Captain Lehlohonolo Nonyane opened the scoring in the 33rd minute before Sibusiso Kumalo doubled the score six minutes later.

Substitute Letsie Koapeng scored the third six minutes before full time.

The visitors got a consolation goal during the referees optional time through Wayde Lekay.

Galaxy were playing with 10-men after their defender Igor Makitan was given a straight red card earlier in the first half.

By Ofhani Munyai

LINE-UPS: Marumo v Galaxy

Marumo Gallants and TS Galaxy have announced their starting line-ups for the DStv Premiership match at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Marumo XI: Arubi, Otladisa, Mabotja, Nhlapo, Kgoetyane, Ngema, Kumalo, Molangoane, Lamola, Manaka, Nonyane.

SUBS: Ndlovu, Ndlondlo, Mnyamane, Mvelase, Ntshangase, Khiba, Letsie, Mphambaniso.

Galaxy XI: Kolak, Makitan, Seedat, Bodibe, Nduli, Aubaas, Mbatha, S. Mahlangu, Mbunjana, Machupu, Mngomezulu.

SUBS: Heugh, Nyama, M. Mahlangu, Brooks, Msimango, Pholhongo, Filipetto, Ndwandwe, Lekay.

By Ofhani Munyai

Mosimane’s big promise to Al Ahly fans

Following a perfect start to the new season, Al Ahly head coach Pitso Mosimane has vowed to reclaim the Egyptian Premier League title and defend their Caf Champions League crown.

Mosimane arrived in Cairo in 2020 and the former Bafana Bafana mentor has been making history with the Red Devils, winning multiple major trophies with the club, including a second consecutive Caf Champions League title, and a Caf Super Cup.

He also led the team to their second ever Fifa Club World Cup bronze medal but lost the league title to rivals, Zamalek last season.

In the current season, Al Ahly have won their first six league games and qualified for the Caf Champions League group stage and Mosimane made a statement to Al Ahly TV channel speaking about the team’s current goals and ambitions.

“We are aiming to reclaim the Egyptian Premier League title, as well as winning our third consecutive Caf Champions League,” said Pitso.

“We will also try to improve our Fifa Club World Cup placing, we want to get better results. Our fans are very important to us, they push us to win during the league games.

“I wish more fans were able to attend the games but I understand it’s because of precautionary measures.

“I still need more time to perform better with the team, we will try to control the games and have a faster pace on the pitch,” he concluded .

RELATED STORY: Mosimane heartwarming message to Kekana

By FARPost Reporter 

Why I came back to Leopards – Joel Masutha

Black Leopards coach Joel Masutha began his second tenure at the club following his reappointment to the position he vacated in 2018.

Masutha takes over at ‘Lidoda Duvha’ a few days after partying ways with fellow GladAfrica Championship side Pretoria Callies.

Just like in 2018, the former goalkeeper takes over when the club is languishing at the bottom half of the table with 14 matches played.

Speaking to the media after his first training session in Polokwane on Wednesday, Masutha explained why he couldn’t refuse the offer by the clubs’ hierarchy.

“Firstly, I was jobless and football being our lives we have to get back to work as soon as possible and when I got a call from Black Leopards I couldn’t even think twice because I know the quality of the players and the ambitions of the team,” said Masutha.

“You know in football you don’t hold grudges or dwell on the past. Also, the main thing is that I grew up at Black Leopards, the Chairman is like a father to me and even when we parted ways there was no bitterness between myself and the board.

“So, when I got a call from the chairman it was very easy. Even when I was not part of the club we used to talk and to check up on him so it feels good to be back home,” he said.

On his immediate targets, Masutha insists getting the club into a safe position is his first priority.

“The immediate ambition is on the four games that we have to play before we close. We don’t want to send the whole January in position 15 or 16 even 14 is not a good position so we just want to make sure that the three league game sand also the Nedbank cup qualifiers we get as many points we can and also qualify for the last 32,” added Masutha.

His first match will be an away encounter against bottom of the log Jomo Cosmos on Saturday, 4 December.

RELATED STORY: Masutha returns to Leopards

By Ofhani Munyai

Zifa courting Billiat to reconsider retirement

Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) is making frantic efforts to persuade Khama Billiat to come out of international retirement and play for the national team at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) next month in Cameroon.

Billiat is widely regarded as one of the finest players of the past decade in South Africa’s topflight and most recently brought his international career to a close with 40 caps in Warriors colours and 14 goals.

The 31-year-old has provoked a renaissance in his form in the league this season, with his performances in the DStv Premiership for Kaizer Chiefs evoking memories of his best showings for Mamelodi Sundowns, where he formed part of the much-feared CBD with Leonardo Castro and Keagan Dolly and won the Caf Champions League and Caf Super Cup.

With four goals and six assists in 12 matches so far in the league, Billiat has hit top form and Zimbabwe needs him badly to have a change of heart as the selectors largely look to players based outside the country to play for the national team. This is because the Premier League in Zimbabwe recently returned after two years of non-activity.

According to the Herald, Zifa representatives will travel to South Africa to try and negotiate with Billiat to return to the national team set-up.

“I still have to engage Khama Billiat and try to talk to him about the possibility of playing at the 2021 Afcon finals in Cameroon,’’ said Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare.

“Obviously, we knew that one day he would retire from international football, but we all thought that the time would come after the Afcon tournament. Even Knowledge [Musona] has said that he will play his last Afcon in Cameroon. ‘So, we are hoping to have a good engagement.’’

Billiat is part of the provisional 40-member delegation which was submitted to Caf by Zifa, before the November 15, deadline.

RELATED STORYKhama Billiat’s retirement: Why Zimbabweans must worry

By Tokelo Mokhesi 

Callies striker Sitayitayi retires from football

Edwin Sitayitayi, a former Kaizer Chiefs footballer has officially hung up his soccer boots, to focus on his coaching career at Pretoria Callies.

This comes after he was appointed caretaker coach of club following the departure of their former coach Joel Masutha.

“Zukish” as he’s known in the football circles joined Callies in the 2019/20 season and played his last game against Jomo Cosmos on the 3rd of October 2021.

In the past decade, he has played for the likes of Thanda Royal Zulu, Santos, Moroka Swallows and Highlands Park.

“Zukish is one of the players that played a vital role for us when we participated in the play-offs. His
unmatched discipline makes him who he is today. He is such a professional. Other players will do well to emulate him,” said the club chairman, Moses Malada in a statement.

As the club management, we will support him all the way. We call on the players and the supporters alike to do likewise.”

The 29-year-old doesn’t have formal coaching experience, however, the Romans have invested in him by sending him to a coaching coach at the start of the season.

By Palesa Motshoene

JVW punching above their weight in Super League

When Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies dropped points for the first time in the Hollywood Super League, it was against JVW Girls, who held the African champions to a thrilling 2-2 draw in the first round to announce themselves as potential league title contenders.

However, JVW have struggled to deal with the weight of pundits and fans’ expectations to challenge for the title as they are 19 points adrift of the league champions Sundowns Ladies in fourth place with one league match remaining.

At some stage, JVW were at the summit of the log, unbeaten after the first few league games, but considering that it is their first season in the Super League – a return of 15 victories, three draws and seven defeats in 25 matches is quite impressive.

And true to JVW head coach, Ciara Picco’s words at the start of the season: “We will bring a good amount of competition to the game,” JVW did give several teams a good run for their money, including Sundowns Ladies, Bloem Celtic Ladies, UWC Ladies and TUT Ladies with their attacking and exciting brand of football.

“A lot of expectations were put on us, yes to go against Mamelodi Sundowns for example but within ourselves, the end goal was to finish the season third and we are on target for that, if your target is to finish third and you are in fourth, I think that’s also a good enough result,” Picco told FARPost.

“I think of all the teams, we have certainly given Sundowns a good shake-up, we were actually able to take a point off them in the first round with a draw when no one else has been able to do that for a very long period of time, so credit to us for going out there and doing our absolute best.

“And I think that in terms of fans’ opinions or opinions of media that’s something we can’t hold ourselves to, looking at ourselves and our own goals, we are happy with what we have achieved.”

With a burning desire to win, and quick adaptation to the league, the 2019 Sasol National Championships winners have gone about their business with aplomb – punching above their weight.

Although Picco is happy with how her side has fared this season, she is not getting carried away and wants JVW to improve their away record.

“We have done extremely well at home, stamping our authority, going forward into the new season, we need to work on our away form, sometimes we have given away a one-goal lead and we have allowed our opposition to get on top of us.

“So, while I’m very happy with the season so far, and how we have come out, currently fourth and could possibly finish fourth this week, which was always the goal for us to aim for as high as possible.

“In terms of my impressions of the league, it is a good competitive league and you can’t underestimate any opponents, it is very strong and on their day any team can walk away with the results,” concluded the JWV coach.

JVW will conclude the season with a home clash against Richmond United at home on Sunday afternoon.

RELATED STORYVan Wyk rejoins JVW FC

By Tokelo Mokhesi 

Raheem Sterling’s future at Man City unclear

Barcelona are reportedly chasing after Raheem Sterling signature with the Manchester City star eager to leave the club.

But, Man City have not decided whether to allow Sterling to move to Spain and join the Catalan giants in January.

And according to a report by 90min.com, Barcelona have approached the club over Sterling but Man City are not entirely sure whether or not they can afford to let him go despite the little game Sterling has enjoyed.

However, Pep Guardiola insisted that he will not stand in the way of his players if they wish to leave.

With Ferran Torres also reportedly wanted by Barca, Man City stated that they will not allow both players to leave the Etihad Stadium in January.

RELATED STORYSterling open to a move away from Man City

By FARPost Reporter