EVERYTIME he reminisces on his football career, former Highlanders’ skipper and defence stalwart Dezidelio “Dazzy” Kapenya cannot help but feel a sense of regret as he recalls the circumstances which led to his move away from the Bulawayo giants at the start of the 2003 season.
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After clinching a fourth successive Premier Soccer League title in 2002 — the second under the late British national Eddie May — Kapenya, who was crowned the 2002 Soccer Star of the Year together with Thabani Masawi and Blessing Gumiso, intended to move to Thomas Mapfumo’s then cash-rich Sporting Lions side in 2003.
A protracted contractual dispute, however, ensued, leaving the former Highlanders’ skipper spending the first half of the season without kicking a ball.
The trio, however, successfully challenged Highlanders’ decision to block their move to Sporting Lions, citing the Bosman ruling which allowed soccer players to leave their clubs for free upon the expiry of their contracts.
The Bosman ruling was first handed in Europe in December 1995 after Belgian midfielder Jean-Marc Bosman took to the courts contesting his local club RFC Liege’s refusal to let him join French side Dunkerque.
Although Kapenya remembers with pride how he forced clubs in Zimbabwe to effect the landmark Bosman ruling, there is no denying that he still harbours a sense of regret.
In fact, Kapenya told Standardsport in an interview last week that he wishes he had stayed with Bosso, a club that he won four championship titles with and which catapulted him to stardom.
“My biggest disappointment was leaving Highlanders,” Kapenya said. “A lot of players had moved to other clubs but Highlanders did not want me to go. During our time, players were ignorant of contractual issues. All I wanted was to play football and I thought I was free to move but there were contractual disputes between Highlanders and Sporting Lions.”
“Highlanders said I was still their player but that was until the enforcement of the Bosman ruling. But when I look back, I wish I had stayed at Highlanders; maybe I could have gone places,” Kapenya said.
Though his stay at Sporting Lions was financially rewarding, it was short-lived as he would retrace his roots to Bulawayo to join Amazulu a year later before crossing the border to join South Africa’s Manning Rangers in the 2004/05 season.
“I came back home and played briefly for Dynamos in 2006 but rejoined Highlanders that same year and won the championship again under Methembe Ndlovu. But it was in 2004 when I was part of the Warriors that went to the Afcon finals in Tunisia under coach Sunday Chidzambwa. Of course, it is every player’s dream to win titles and play for the national team, but I give all that credit to Highlanders — the team that made me a great player,” Kapenya said.
As a young man, he joined former Highlanders greats, the late Mercedes Sibanda and Willard Khumalo and played with the likes of Thulani “Biya” Ncube, Mackay Nyathi, Simon Sibanda and Lovemore Ncube.
“I had played for Hunyani Corrugated in Division Two in Bulawayo in the early 90s when I was at school and after completing my O’Levels I was employed at Hunyani. We were promoted to Division One in 1996 but were relegated the same year and my manager at the club then, Cornelius Moyo took me to Highlanders. Madinda Ndlovu was coach then and he liked what he saw in me,” he said.
His first title success would, however, come under the tutelage of Rahman Gumbo as they won the league title during the 1998-1999 season, before clinching a further three titles between 2000 to 2002.
Kapenya also spoke of his time with the Warriors, when they made their debut appearance at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Afcon squad was captained by the legendary Peter Ndlovu and had the likes of the late Adam Ndlovu, Agent Sawu, Ronald Sibanda, Esrom Nyandoro, Kaitano Tembo and George Mbwando.
After winning his last championship medal with Highlanders in 2006, Kapenya was out of action in 2007 before joining lower division side FC Windermere where he wound up his playing career.
Kapenya has been involved in junior football development in Bulawayo and his last stint was two months ago with Zifa Bulawayo Province Junior League Serie ‘A’ side FMSA Umguza, owned by Canada-based coach Isaac Mbedzi.
Now at 40, Kapenya says his goal is to unearth future stars in local football. “My dream and ambitions lie in discovering and nurturing talent in junior players and that is what I have been doing after playing,” he said.
On the origins of his popular nickname “Walker Texas Ranger”, Kapenya says it was veteran football commentator Charles Mabika who gave him the nickname after the brawny movie star Chuck Norris but his friends called him Walker after former Sheffield Wednesday centre-back and England international Desmond Sinclair “Des” Walker.