IT can only be left to imagination if a young Benjani Mwaruwari would have blossomed or turned out to be a flop had he broken into the Highlanders senior team in the late 90s.
After all, not many people know that the ex-Warriors captain donned the famous black and white jersey — albeit in the junior structures.
He was coached by none other than revered juniors’ coach Ali “Baba” Dube — the man who groomed countless young players to become household names locally and abroad.
In an interview from his base in the United Kingdom, Mwaruwari who now spots a bald head from the signature dreadlocks, said his football story would be incomplete without mentioning that he almost knocked on the Bosso’s senior team door many years ago.
“It is a pity that a lot of people don’t know a lot about my history with Highlanders. I might not have played for the Highlanders’ first team but I must say my blood is black and white as I started playing for the Highlanders Under-15s, graduated through the ranks right up to reserve side in the 90s.
“We were coached by Ali Dube who had spotted me playing for another juniors’ team called Young Blood alongside Sauso Phiri, a player who went on to shine in Bosso’s first team,” said Mwaruwari.
The former Manchester City and Portsmouth striker vividly remembers playing alongside Thulani “Biya” Ncube, Gift Lunga (Jnr), Richard Choruma, Master Masiku, Siza Khoza, Kelvin “Mtshewa” Maseko, Wonder Mpofu, Phephisani Ndebele and the now Bosso first team assistant coach Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu.
“They all went on to play for the Highlanders first team while my last stop was at the reserve side. I cannot really say who was my close associate as we came from different suburbs that included Entumbane, Tshabalala, Mzilikazi and Magwegwe. But all I can say is we enjoyed playing football together as young talented players,” he said.
Nicknamed the Undertaker, Mwaruwari, surprisingly, says he believes that he performed better as a youngster compared to the days he illuminated the English Premier Soccer League.
“I reckon that I was a free-scoring striker during my time as a junior player. We had gifted defenders in the mould of Bekithemba Ndlovu, Mkhuphali Masuku and Thulani Biya Ncube but I scored for fun as I would score four to six goals in a single match. I actually had better performances as a youngster compared to the days I even played in the English Premier Soccer League,” said a man whose football journey also took him to South Africa, Switzerland and France.
The former Warriors skipper has so much respect for Dube, the celebrated ex-Bosso junior teams’ coach.
“Dube will always have a special place in my heart. He was a great mentor and a great disciplinarian.
“Each player knew what the coach always wanted us to do on the pitch,” he added.
Mwaruwari, through his foundation and associates, last Saturday donated foodstuffs worth $540 000 to Highlanders players, Zulu Chiefs social soccer club and Old Magwegwe community to cushion them against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thirty Highlanders players and members of the technical bench received food parcels.
The ex-Warriors captain gave 900 families a food hamper each that consisted of a 10kg bag of mealie-meal, 750ml of cooking oil and a 500-gramme packet of sugar beans.
The donation also saw Entembeni Old People’s Home receiving food parcels.