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Shortcat bares soul in autobiography

FORMER Dynamos and Warriors goalkeeper Japhet Mparutsa’s autobiography My Story is a powerful and absorbing story of how he rose from humble beginnings in Mbare in the 1970s to become one of the best goalkeepers to emerge from Zimbabwe.


Japhet Mparutsa
Japhet Mparutsa

The fully-packed 74-page book — the first to be written by a former Zimbabwean footballer — begins with Mparutsa’s recollections of his finest hour in domestic football when he was crowned the 1982 Natbrew Soccer Star of the Year at the tender age of 19.

The man, who was affectionately known as “Shortcat” due to his small stature, the first goalkeeper to win the prestigious Soccer Star-of-the-Year award while he was still turning out for Harare giants Dynamos, a team he had joined from Harare Central Hospital’s soccer side Royal Kings in 1979.

“I leapt to my feet and tears of joy flooded by eyes. I made my way to the podium, hardly seeing where my feet were landing. I was in my own world and my mind was in a spin. I remembered all those years spent on the streets of Mbare chasing after improvised plastic footballs. It is indeed true that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step…” the UK-based former star recalled.

By kickstarting the book with his moment of glory, Mparutsa and co-author Lot Chitakasha give the reader a better appreciation of the former’s achievements and the obstacles he had to clear to achieve his goal of becoming the best goalkeeper in the land.

Mparutsa, who was raised by his grandparents, recalls how he started his goalkeeping career “more by circumstance than by choice” during social soccer tournaments in the capital, which he credits for providing him with an opportunity to hone his skills.

“…No one wanted to play in goal and because of my small stature, they would ask me to stay in goal,” explained Mparutsa, who cited Posani Sibanda of Hwange, Zambian goalie Kenny Mwape, Frank Mkanga of Ziscosteel and Labani Kandi of Dynamos as his role models at the time.

After initially joining the Dynamos juniors side at the age of 14, Mparutsa moved to Harare Central Hospital’s Royal Kings soccer team two years later, where he not only had a chance to pursue his football career, but also earn a living as an employee at the hospital.

A move to Dynamos would soon follow as Mparutsa heeded the call of the then Dynamos coach Shepherd Murape to join the Harare giants.

His consistent performances were rewarded when he was voted Soccer Star of the Year in 1982 while still at Dynamos and then helped Black Rhinos win the league and cup double in 1984.

In 1985 he won the Vaseline Blue Seal Goalkeeper of the Year award and that was before he left Rhinos in the late 1980s to join Darryn T only to leave the textile side in 1993 for South Africa’s Bloemfontein Celtics.

Mparutsa rates Murape as one of the greatest coaches he worked under during his playing days and it’s not a surprise given that the duo worked together at Dynamos, Black Rhinos, Bloemfontein Celtics and the national team.

“I realised through him that a good coach is an asset to the team; he moulded me to be the player that I became. He was committed to the welfare of players and in turn the players wanted to play for him,” Mparutsa, who was also capped 63 times playing for the Warriors, said.

Mparutsa, now 52 and a devout Christian, offers advice to upcoming goalkeepers and footballers in general, making the book a must-read for budding stars.

The book’s foreword was written by former Warriors goalkeeper and Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar, who described Mparutsa’s autobiography as “a story of persistence and determination in the face of adversity”.

Writes Grobbelaar: “This book tells the story of Japhet. It explores his journey from the dusty streets of Mbare to the apex of his career. Not only does it capture vividly his joys and achievements, but it also touches his struggles to gain the confidence of his teammates during his early days. …It is also a story about God’s grace and Japhet tells it with deep conviction.”

Former players such as Kandi, Memory Mucherahowa and Alois Bunjira also made contributions to the book.

My Story by Japhet Mparutsa (with Lot Chitakasha) is available at for £9.

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