Albert Marufu in LONDON, England
FORMER Dynamos captain Memory Mucherahowa has lamented the poor living standards of most former footballers in Zimbabwe.
Mucherahowa, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, said his heart bleeds at the plight of former players and is planning to set up a Foundation to assist them.
Another Zimbabwean football legend Japhet M’parutsa, who is also based in England, has already set up his Foundation which has been donating kits to various schools and institutions back home in Zimbabwe.
The Japhet “Shortcat” M’parutsa Foundation is being run in Zimbabwe by the goalkeeper’s cousin Clifford.
And Mucherahowa has indicated that he would like to follow M’parutsa’s footsteps.
“I am grateful to the Lord who has protected me over the years. I managed to play and captain Dynamos FC – the biggest team in Zimbabwe – and won a lot of medals with the team,’’ said Mucherahowa , who turned 50 on June 19.
“However, the best medal that I have received from the Lord is life. Many of my friends are no longer with us while some are in poor health. As I reflect on my reaching 50 years of age, I just think of those ex-footballers who have been less fortunate than me. I am fortunate to be in a country like England and can afford basic life.
“Some of them passed on young while those that are still alive are living in (abject) poverty. Politicians always remember their war veterans the world over, why can’t the Zimbabwean football community remember and respect their football heroes?”
Mucherahowa, who currently chairs the Zimbabwe Former Footballers and Friends UK, said former stars needed help.
“My dream is to see a fledging Foundation to cater for the welfare of former footballers in Zimbabwe. I am reluctant to name it after myself. Maybe we can name it in honour of any of our heroes like George Shaya, Peter Ndlovu, Moses Chunga or the late duo of Francis Shonhai and Watson Muhoni in consultations with their families.”
He also urged current players to fight for their rights.
“What Desmond Maringwa is doing with the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe is very commendable. Young players should be educated on the importance of being part of a union.
“We did not have them during our time. There was no one to offer us any advice. Moreover, there were no contracts during our time. I never received a signing-on fee all the years that I played for Dynamos. We only knew that if we win, you get your cash and if the team loses, there was nothing. It was only during the days of Lincoln Mutasa that those who were not in full-time employment elsewhere got what we called ‘Unemployment Benefits 40’ to enable them to come for training sessions.
‘‘People have this misconception that footballers of our generation earned a lot of money. This notion hurts.”
Mucherahowa also added that footballers should be included in the leadership structures of Zimbabwean football.
“We have been in football for a long time so we should be in the leadership structures. People like Peter Ndlovu supported by younger former players, who have gone to football schools, will do wonders. There are a lot of former players who are educated and doing well in football such as Chamunoda Musanhu and his younger brother Walter, Innocent Mugabe and George Mbwando just to name but a few,” he said.
Mucherahowa added that he is happy with the unity of purpose being shown by former players at home in Zimbabwe and abroad.
“I am glad here we are beginning to work together in support of those of us who are less fortunate. In the United Kingdom we have the Zimbabwe Former Footballers & Friends UK. Former players based in the United Kingdom have been excellent.
“I was hurt when the ex-footballers in Zimbabwe played against World Legends in an exhibition match. No-one thought of those ex-footballers who could not make it because of illnesses.
‘‘The Zimbabwe legends should have politely asked for a certain amount of money to cater for our colleagues. This was our opportunity because without us, that match would not have been played,” he said.
Mucherahowa, who penned his biography Soul of Seven Million Dreams, also urged players to tell their own stories in the form of autobiographies.
“We have a lot of stories that will certainly inspire the younger generation. I challenge ex-players to write their own books as did Japhet M’parutsa.
He also called upon the administrators of the game to respect former footballers at the stadiums. “It is sad to hear that people like Sunday Chidzambwa and Henry Chari are being denied entry to watch a football match by a tout. Chidzambwa walks with a limp today because of an injury sustained while playing football (for Dynamos).
‘‘Today he should pay to watch a match? This is not fair at all. A mechanism should be in place to see former players watching matches for free. Just look at how FIFA treated legends at the just-ended World Cup.” he said.