HARARE – It might be five years since Mwana Africa were relegated from the Premier Soccer League, but the nickel miners had left a lasting impression in their three year flirtation with the top-flight game.
The Bindura miners may now be history to many but they wrote their fairy-tale in the Caf Confederations Cup in 2007, reaching the play-off stage before they were knocked out of the tournament by seasoned campaigners TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The story of that short golden era for Mwana Africa could not, however, be complete without mentioning one the unsung heroes of the club, gangly centre back Alfred “Chibeka” Chinodakufa.
Born in 1975 in the rural area of Hurungwe, Chinodakufa remains one of the finest defenders of his era.
Chinodakufa grew up in Highfield, where he came through the ranks of Black Aces Juniors, to become one of the best defenders of his time. The tall stopper made headlines when he joined Mwana Africa in 2005 from Division One and instantly became a pillar in their defence.
“I started playing soccer at Kuwangira Primary School in Highfield while turning out for Aces. At Aces juniors I played alongside players like Andrew Chifamba, Nqobizitha Ncube and Francis Jayman,” Chinodakufa tells the Daily News.
After an impressive showing at Aces Juniors, Chinodakufa was quickly lured by first division side Trojan Stars, the forerunner of what was to be known later as Mwana Africa. At Trojan, he commanded a first team jersey at the age of 16.
“When I was 16 I moved to Trojan Stars, where I spent some years and gained a lot of experience. I then joined another first division side, Douglas Warriors, in 2003.
“During my days at Warriors I played alongside players like Gilbert Mapemba, Bothwell Mahlengwe and Aiba Kadango, among others. I was then lured at Mwana Africa, formerly Trojan Stars, when it got promoted into the PSL, marking my breakthrough in top flight football.”
Powered by their financial muscle then, Mwana Africa became a force to reckon with, matching any opponent including the traditional giants of Zimbabwean football, Highlanders, Dynamos and CAPS United.
And after being afforded a chance in the starting line-up, Chinodakufa never looked back, featuring prominently for the nickel miners.
At Mwana Africa, Chinodakufa helped the team lift the then richest knockout tournament in Zimbabwee, the CBZ Cup, and went on to represent the country in the Confederations Cup, where they went as far as the fourth round tournament.
Then, under the guidance of Highlanders great Willard Khumalo, Mwana Africa knocked out FC Munda of Zanzibar in the first round, beat Inter Club of Cameroon in the second, and dismissed Etoile Filante of Burkina Faso before being booted out in the fourth round by Mazembe.
“We had one the best defence in the league then. I partnered Thomas Sweswe at the heart of defence. We conceded few goals because we had a good understanding. Our team had seasoned players like Chipo Tsodzo, Alisara Kondowe, Costa Maradzike, Blessing Gumiso, Webster Muronda, Graham Ncube, Tendai Mwarura, Amidu Mndelemani, Lovemore Makwavarara, Charles Maguraushe, among others.
“We turned Chipadze Stadium into a cauldron. We made life difficult for most teams there. We never had respect for any opponents, regardless of their size and number of supporters. Our hard work was duly rewarded when we won the CBZ Cup in 2006.
“We later went on to participate in the African Confederations Cup. I remember being voted man-of-the-match against a club from Burkina Faso called Etoile Filante in 2007. That was the best game of my career. We were 0-2 down from the first leg. And we were supposed to score more than three goals without replay for us to progress to the next round and we did just that. It was unfortunate though that we lost in the knockout stages to TP Mazembe.”
Chinodakufa says he has no regrets in his career.
“I think as a player I wanted to play abroad and to play for the national team but unfortunately I couldn’t, but I don’t regret anything. I am happy with the stage I reached because playing continental football was dream come true.”
With the financial constraints quickly catch up with the nickel miners given the prevailing rough economic conditions, Mwana Africa found themselves relegated in 2008.
Chinodakufa chose to call it quits and quickly enrolled for coaching courses. He currently holds a Caf B Coaching Licence and is very active in grassroots programmes.
The exdefender has studied safety as a fall back option and is currently employed as a safety officer at Zimplat’s Ngezi Mine. Chinodakufa is married to Nancy and the couple have two children, Errol and Danica.