HARARE – Former Dynamos midfield star Archieford “Uche” Gutu has described his first season with Kalmar FF in the Swedish top-flight league as a “great learning experience” and says he is ready to step up a gear next year.
A delightful playmaker with a keen eye for the gap and excellent timing in his passing, the Zimbabwe international once tried his luck in Turkey in 2008 but returned home without an offer to join the now-defunct CAPS FC and later revived his career at Dynamos.
Gutu was a key member of the all-conquering Dynamos team that won the league and cup double last year before sealing a dream move to the Swedish league.
The youthful Zimbabwean arrived in the Swedish South-Eastern City of Kalmar in January this year on a six-month loan contract, but three months into the deal, the club offered the gifted player a three-and-a-half-year- long contract.
After joining Kalmar, Gutu quickly established himself, making 20 league appearances including 10 starts and five Europa League appearances.
The Swedish Allsvenskan league runs concurrently with the Zimbabwean Premiership and Gutu is currently back home for the festive break.
Yesterday, the Mbare-born ace took time to reflect on his debut season in Sweden.
At Kalmar, Gutu played in a more central position as opposed to the more offensive role which the former Ajax Cape Town and Dynamos star prefers.
“It was not easy settling in a foreign land and I struggled with my game at first,” Gutu told the Daily News yesterday. “I had to adjust to my new position in midfield and get to understand my teammates’ type of play.
“During my first days, I could only play in the last 10 minutes of the game but I worked my way into the starting XI and became a regular in the later stages of the season.
“For me, I think my first season was more of a learning process, but I enjoyed my game and it was a great debut season for me. I should say I was very excited playing in the Europa League although we didn’t go far.
“My teammates and coaches played a big part in helping me settle and I now feel at home. I have a good relationship with everyone at the club but I am closer to my fellow Africans, Papa Diouf from Senegal and Abiola Dauda of Nigeria. The whole team is like a family and my coaches are very supportive.”
Kalmar finished the season in 10th place in a 16-team league having won 10 matches, drawing seven and losing 13. They were 22 points behind champions Elfsborg.
“I think 10th place was not bad, we now need to go and work hard as we begin preparations for next season. I want to work hard and cement my place in the starting XI. We are re-grouping soon after the holiday and I will be going back on January 2.”
Gutu says playing in Sweden also helped financially to the point of investing back home.
“My lifestyle has changed ever since I joined Kalmar and I am happy with what I’m getting. It’s not that much, but I think financially I am now stable, but I remain the same old Archie you know.
“I am investing wisely because there is also life after football.”
The former Ajax Cape Town midfielder also revealed how he missed his days at the Glamour Boys.
“Dynamos is a great team with great history and I have missed those great moments with the Glamour Boys.
Dynamos shaped my carrier and they made me what I am today.
“I still remember those days when we won the league and Mbada Diamonds cup last year. We had a great team then and it feels good being part of that team. I was also following them from my base in Sweden and I am happy they retained both cups.
“I think they should now focus on qualifying for the group stages in the African Champions League after we failed last year. They have a great coach and good players and all things being equal, I think they can go far.” – Godknows Matarutse