HARARE – Phineas Mutyaviri may have turned out for two of the best Zimbabwean football sides of his era, but it is his 22-year career as school headmaster that makes his heart skip a beat.
65-year-old Mutyaviri, who honed his football skills at the now defunct Mbare League in the early 1960’s, turned the age of retirement last year, ending a nine-year stint as headmaster of Kadoma’s famed Sir John Kennedy Primary School.
His resignation from Sir John Kennedy called time on a proud history of having led the school to the apex of academic prowess in Sanyati district.
“Last year we had an unparalleled 93 percent Grade 7 pass rate,” Mutyaviri tells the Daily News.
“What pleased me is that for the past four years we had the best academic results in the Sanyati district. It’s was a question of the ministry saying ‘you are now too old, you need to retire’, but I was still enjoying my work.”
Mutyaviri’s day’s as headmaster begun in 1990 in an acting capacity at Eiffel Flats Primary School.
He would later assume the leadership of Lozani Primary from 1995 to 1997, Katsiriri Primary from 1997 to 2002, Golden Valley Primary between 2003 and 2004 and lastly Sir John Kennedy Primary from May 2004 to December 2012.
But unknown to the many pupils he led, there was more to the man’s history than just books.
Mutyaviri may have trained as a teacher, but his God-given talent was in football, where he made a name for himself as one of the most potent left wings of the 1960s and 70s.
Born on August 21, 1947, Mutyaviri began his career in 1966 in the high-density suburb of Mbare, where he turned out for Mashonaland United as a George Stack Primary school pupil.
The Mbare League saw him brushing shoulders with such players as Ernest Kamba, who would go on to make a name for himself at Dynamos years down the line.
“That was a vibrant league, it embraced a good number of people from different rural areas,” Mutyaviri says.
In 1967, the Mbare-raised Mutyaviri started his secondary school in Musami at St Pauls Mission, subsequently making it into the St Pauls Musami team, a side comprised of workers, teachers, boarding masters and students.
At that time, St Pauls Musami had already become trailblazers after their Super League championship winning feat in 1964 and 1966 made them the only rural football club in Zimbabwe to lift the top flight title.
In his early days in high school, Mutyaviri was so outstanding he was one of three students who were part of the famous St Pauls Musami team, a side led by Anthony Edward Davies, better respected by his holy name, Father Davies.
“Those were good times,”Mutyaviri recalls nostalgically.
“The three students in the side were Nelson Mapara, Patrick Chingoka (brother of Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka) and myself I remember we were Rosebowl finalists in 1967,” Mutyaviri adds.
In January 1971, after finishing his teachers training course at St Pauls Mission, Mutyaviri moved to the mining town of Kadoma.
“I joined Cam and Motor Primary School (owned by Rio Tinto Zimbabwe) as a teacher but I didn’t leave soccer. That was the main reason I went to Kadoma, I wanted to play for Rio Tinto,” he says.
“To be honest, initially I wanted to join Dynamos but I had grown up in Mbare. I wanted a change, something that would allow me to grow away from my parents. So I said let me go out for a change and that’s how I came to Kadoma.”
At Rio Tinto, Mutyaviri played alongside such players as Peter Phiri, Jimmy Gilfin, Kevin Sheridan and Jubel Phiri.
“I remember in 1977 we won the Rosebowl Cup at Rufaro Stadium after beating Black Aces in the final.
“Robert Godoka scored the winning goal two minutes before time. We also won the Rosebowl trophy in 1978 after beating Zimbabwe Saints in the final. We thrashed them 6-0. I didn’t score in that match. But I contributed quite a number of goals.
“We were the only Premiership team in Kadoma (then known as Gatooma) so the following was huge. People would come as far as Gweru, Kwekwe, and the surrounding areas, it was great.”
Mutyaviri started to slow down as years passed by, and he later shifted from left wing to left back.
He would later hang his boots in 1982 to concentrate on his teaching career.
“I really enjoyed my time as headmaster; the early days were a learning process. It’s like you are joining a new department,t but when I came to Sir Johns Kennedy, I knew the ins and outs.”
Mutyaviri said it would be folly not to give credit to his childhood sweetheart Rebecca, who he later married in 1972 after meeting as teenagers at St Pauls Musami.
“I must give credit to my wife, who has stood by me for the past 38 years. We have six children,” he says.