FORMER CAPS United defender Charles Yohane nearly spurned the offer to go and play in South Africa because he simply did not want to leave the talent-laden “Green Machine” outfit which went on to end a 17-year Premiership football title drought in 1996.
On three occasions, the leftback dribbled his way back home at the Harare International Airport after he was invited by then AmaZulu manager Mike Makaab, who wanted to go with him and have an assessment of the club facilities first before signing a deal.
Makaab, who is now managing director of football at global sport management agency Prosport International, had seen the leftback in action for the Warriors at home and was impressed
But the then 23-year-old was simply not interested in the move such that he tried to convince the CAPS United management to buy him outright from his parent club Fire Batteries.
But Fire Batteries director Lovemore “Gijima” Musindo was not interested in CAPS United’s offer, but wanted his player to go to South Africa.
Grudgingly, Yohane left and South Africa became his second home. The 47-year-old has been in the neighbouring country for the past 24 years.
“I had to run away, I didn’t want to leave but at the end of the day CAPS United told me that ‘Musindo doesn’t want to consider our offer to buy you out. He wants you to first go to South Africa’. So I ended up giving in and the fourth time I took my ticket and there was no turning back.
“The facilities were good but my heart was at CAPS United,” said Yohane.
The trailblazing Makepekepe side of 1996 scooped all but one of the trophies on offer in Zimbabwe, but Yohane did not finish the season to join his teammates in the festivities.
“When l left l had played three quarters of the games. I left before the end of the season, but there was no stopping the other guys. Already the trophy was written CAPS United are the champions, it was ours.
“I am glad we won the league that year with a well-oiled machine. All of the guys went on to excel. Some of the guys later followed me to South Africa as well, Morgan Nkhatazo, Alois Bunjira and Stewart Murisa.
“That class of 1996 helped to shape my career and to raise my game. I was someone quiet but doing the job on the pitch. I was honoured to play in that team with those talented players.
“I think CAPS United had gone for 17 years without winning the league title but we managed to break the dry spell. We managed to do it and achieve everything in that year as a team, and personally I managed to move. I earned my national team call up playing for CAPS United. So I always appreciate what CAPS United have done to my career and I still support them. I still want them to excel,” he said.
The former Warriors left back said the club was aptly named “the Green Machine” as they were simply a well-oiled machine.
“We had balance in every department. We had a formidable team but l was still part of Fire Batteries who brought me to South Africa in 1995 in a loan move before I joined CAPS United.
“They (CAPS United) were looking for a leftback, they were looking for Innocent Chikoya as a leftback and he had come back to South Africa at the beginning of 1996 and l was still in Zimbabwe.
“I went there and the club had the likes of Bunjira, Nkhatazo, Joe Mugabe, Silver Chigwenje, Murisa, Mpumulelo Dzowa, Felix Antonio, Joseph Takaringofa, Percy Mwase, Godknows Chamwalila, George Mudiwa and Brenna Msiska. So we had a team of stars. The chairman was Mr Bwanya (Shepherd) and the coach was still Kwashi (Steve). Brenna was also part of the technical team as a player/coach and Anthony Kambani was part of the coaching staff,” Yohane said.
Yohane vividly remembers the smash and grab they would do on their opponents. Makepekepe would win matches with an average scoreline of two goals on their way to the title.
“We had a good team. We had no excuses, so the performance on the field from day one was perfect, I think we went up to 20 games, actually 24 games and we had 23 wins and one draw with Dynamos.
“We played the Charity Shield and won it and the Independence Cup we won it. So that year it was massive.
“We were winning games, it was just more like a machine. Even the guys I was playing with at the back — Silver Chigwenje, Frank “Dealer” Nyamukuta and Steven Chikodzi — were good and those are the people I will remember as our defensive line with Cheche Billiat also there, Joe Mugabe and Farai Mbidzo, so we had a team-and-a-half.
“We were not struggling that the team is defending too deep. We were breaking every defence, so whenever we have possession we would end up at the opposition’s goal, that’s how well the machine was oiled. That’s why I was saying most matches we would win in the first half by four goals, three goals even two goals, we hardly won a match 1-0 that season it was just a machine, scoring opportunities including missing opportunities,” Yohane said.
Credit, the former Wits defenders says also goes to the CAPS United management of that time who ran the club smoothly.
“Everyone was on fire, even the management. They ran the club perfectly well such that no one had to complain. There were no complaints, we were just motivated.
“Sometimes the chairman would go out of his way and give us double bonuses for a very good performance, rather than the normal bonus we were promised,” he said.
No wonder the player nearly snubbed the foreign offers before he later joined South African outfit AmaZulu and then Wits in the 1997 season up to 2006. Yohane briefly left to play for FC AK in the First Division but was back at Wits in 2008 as a developmental coach.