HARARE – Growing up as a kid in Torwood, in the mining town of Redcliff, Kwekwe I learnt how to play football at an early age as this was part of the community responsibility of Ziscosteel company where my father used to work.
While other young boys my age could be seen chasing wild cats which eventually hid in drainage systems where they would set fires to smoke them out and eventually kill them, I and a host of others took to sporting activities.
Ziscosteel had a deliberate policy of promoting young sporting talent and I remember then in the 1970s there were several playing grounds for various age groups; under 12s to under 20s.
I remember being trained by the late goalkeeper Frank Mukanga who was one of the coaches on the junior soccer programme.
Then in Torwood, a suburb which hosted Ziscosteel employees, successful footballers and other athletes were so popular, so it dawned to all youngsters that sport was the in thing.
Ziscosteel Stadium was among the best sporting facilities in Zimbabwe and indeed in the region as it boasted of all field tracks including a cycle track.
I remember cycling competitions taking place in the stadium while most athletic events, be they national or those for schools were staged there.
With such a deliberate policy, Ziscosteel also constructed tennis, netball and basketball pitches where the company seconded professional coaches.
While we were still juniors and had our own competitive games, we were also proud that Ziscosteel Football Club, the senior soccer team was in the premier league.
The club produced football players like the late Paul Gundani, Benedict Moyo, Ephraim Dzimbiri, James Takavada, Rodrick Muganhiri and Mukanga among others.
Years down the line though, I was back in Torwood and was shocked to find that all the sporting facilities I used to be proud of had disappeared into thin air — they seemed never to have existed at all.
There is no sign that there once were these green lawns and Torwood Stadium is now just a shell.
But still the great sporting memories linger.
I was happy this other day when I met one of the great sports personalities to emerge from that era — sprinter Partson Muderedzi popularly known as “Darling of the Crowd” who was born on June 23, 1964 at Torwood Hospital.
The athlete who was a champion in the 100m and 200m says he has no words to describe the state of sports facilities in Torwood, more so Torwood Stadium. “I have no words to describe the state but in a few words, it’s in a bad state for reasons not known to us.
“All those sporting activities of the past are all history, they need to be revamped. There is also need for a vigorous talent search and development.”
Muderedzi bemoaned the closure of Ziscosteel and other mines saying this affected the development of sports in the country.
“Remember, industry and mines were the backbone of sport in Zimbabwe, so their closures were a big setback.
“Today I feel short-changed when I see a lot of talent going down the drain because there is no sponsorship.”
Muderedzi, whose sporting career ended abruptly when he had a hamstring torn during training in 1983, started running as a small boy while still at Torwood Primary School before moving to then Drake Secondary School.
“It was when I was doing Form 3 that I was identified at a schools track and field competition hosted by Ziscosteel Athletics Club head coach Tinos Maridza who then nurtured me to stardom.
“My first win at national level was in 1983 when I beat the then 110m Hurdler, the late Champion Matthew Mafiro and then sprints king, Christopher Madzokere,” recalls the athlete. “Those wins made me get called into the national team for the first time in 1993.”
Muderedzi’s first national duty was in Botswana at the Botswana Independence Day in Gaborone. “I won the 100m and 200m events. Little did I know that was the beginning of my career as a national sprinter which led to my globe-trotting as I attended several high profile competitions.
“I remember vividly my first flight was to Egypt for the Africa-Championships in 1985. That trip actually made me work hard at training because it was an eye opener into my sporting career.
“Since the Egypt flight I didn’t look back, it was then followed by many regional, continental and international competitions, which I have lost count.
“At least I am happy that I am still the 100m Chamber of Mines record holder of 10.22 sec set in July 1992. A reflection of the type of competition we used to have compared to the current one.”
Muderedzi said then the 100m and 200m sprints used to be so explosive, not forgetting the 4X100 and 4X400m relays.
“To compare today’s national competitions and those during our days, in my own opinion, is a mockery, there is nothing exciting in the finals, unlike in the 80s and 90s.
“There is no competition among our current sprinters, the reason being lack of a vigorous talent search and development.
“We miss those days when we had many local mines dotted around the country, the famous Annual Chamber of Mines Competition.
“Also those days sponsorship used to be available and this time around I am prepared to take that challenge (of youth development) head on.
He remembers those golden years. “I still remember some of the sprinters who used to grace the sprints finals; Charles Gumbura, Glen Desousa, Zenas Marambakuenda, John Poggiolli, Craig Zangel, Carl Chicksen, Wallen Gopo, Christopher Madzokere, Elijah Nkala, Calvin Chitendeni, Fabian Muyaba, Thabane Gonye, Sunday Munyanyi, Enock Marisa.”
Muderedzi’s father, Boas nicknamed “Watch” during his sporting career was a dependable track and field champion in both field events and soccer. “I really want to thank my dad for the inspiration he gave me by supporting me through and through my sprinting career.
“He was a true sportsman for he was a great footballer for Globe and Phoenix Mine and Riscom Chamber of Mines team, also a javelin and discuss champion.”
The athlete is also thankful to the then Ziscosteel team manager Clifton Mtizwa for “sending me to my first I.A.A.F Level 1 course in Harare in which I didn’t disappoint by passing it and proceeding to Level 2 in Nairobi Kenya in 1994 and after doing well I was appointed national coach in 1995.
“Then Zimbabwe Olympic Committee awarded me with a three-month scholarship to go for a sprints and relays course at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in 1996. The scholarship put me into the frame of coaching philosophy.
“When I came back from Australia, I was appointed national director Talent Identification and Development.
“At the same time I was identified to run the Midlands Millenium Academy of Sport and as a qualified coach I agreed to the post, which led to my ban because of my association with the Academy (Sports politics).”
Muderedzi added that plans are already underway to register a sports academy come 2018. “Currently I am the national director for Lay Witnesses for Christ International (A Sportsman’s Ministry) with its headquarters in Hurst, Texas USA.
“With this Ministry together with the Academy we will organise to jet in the World former Sprints King Carl Lewis and Zambia’s Samuel Matete to Zimbabwe for some coaching clinics just to motivate our junior talent.”