BY ADMIRE JAMU-MLAMBO
IT is rare for footballers that are short in stature to excel in defence, but in the past the local top-flight league has been blessed with exceptional players, who made a mark despite their small frames.
There are a few that come to mind who include former Dynamos and Black Mambas right-back Masimba Dinyero, ex-Highlanders right-back Simon Sibanda and the former Dynamos and Motor Action defence lynchpin Lovemore Mapuya (pictured).
Standing at just above a metre, Mapuya was a firm favourite of the DeMbare fans during his stint at the popular Harare club, consistently impressing with his tenacity, never-die spirit and raw aggression, which belied his small frame.
Arguably one of the most successful players to emerge from Chipinge, Mapuya’s journey to the top in local football dates back to 1999 where he turned out for different division one outfits before making a breakthrough in the Premier League with the now-defunct Motor Action Football Club.
“I first turned out for division one teams University of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe Jets, before getting my first dance of Premier League football with the now-defunct Motor Action from 2001-05, played for the Glamour Boys from 2006 until 2009 and lastly at Black Mambas for two years,” he said.
It is at DeMbare that the pint-sized player, became a household name in domestic football, winning a league and cup double with the Harare giants in 2007.
Mapuya was also part of the Glamour Boys side, which reached the semi-finals of the prestigious CAF Champions League in 2008.
Despite defeating Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosas earlier in the tournament, Dynamos were overcome by Coton Sport of Cameroon in the semifinals with Mapuya proving to be a key member of the side.
After the lofty heights of playing in Africa’s biggest club tournament, Mapuya was left soul-searching the following season when he was omitted from the squad for the Champions League.
“I must admit that one of my saddest moments as a player was when I was not registered to play in the CAF Champions League by the then coach Elvis Chiweshe in 2009. After all, I thought I had played very well to deserve automatic inclusion after putting up stellar performances during our run to the semi-finals where we eventually lost to Coton Sport.
“After failing to stomach the frustrations, I had to get back on my feet, dust myself and face new challenges. I joined the Madinda Ndlovu-coached side, Black Mambas, which had Peter Ndlovu, Peter Kachirika and Sebastian Mutizirwa in 2010 until 2012,” he said.
The defender, who was affectionately known as “Thula” due to his small frame, also holds fond memories of his best achievements which include being voted the best player at Motor Action in 2004 and winning the Most Disciplined Player award at Dynamos four years later.
The 40-year-old retired star is now cutting his milk teeth in a budding coaching career in his hometown of Chipinge.
Mapuya has had coaching stints at various clubs in Chipinge that include the now-defunct Eastern Region Division One side Gaza Gunners and Chipinge Stars.
Mapuya holds a Level Two coaching certificate and he hopes to attain the necessary qualifications to enable him to coach in the Premier Soccer League in the future.