IT is an anomaly that has been with the Mwaruwari family for 41 years.
When the man known to the world of football as Benjani was born, his father had intended him to be christened Mpenjani, the Tumbuka equivalent of the name Dingani in Ndebele or Tsvagai in Shona.
But a mistake led to his name being entered as Benjani instead, a name that has been on team sheets with some of the globe’s greatest football talents. The name could not be changed anymore. It was simply too big. The mistake of one Home Affairs official 41 years ago had made it to the bright lights in some of Europe’s greatest arenas.
But 15 years ago, Benjani had a chance to change this when his son was born. However, instead of naming his heir Mpenjani Jnr, he did not, and although he hoped to correct it with any more children born after, the lord blessed him with four girls.
In a telephone interview from his base in United Kingdom, the former senior national team striker, who was born at Bulawayo’s Pelandaba Clinic, said he now hopes his son-Benjani Junior- when he has his own children, will correct the irregularity that has been in their bloodline for two generations now.
“I even forgot to correct the anomaly 15 years ago, when I named my first-born child Benjani Junior. I was later blessed with four girls and I am done siring children meaning that I hope and pray the irregularity will be maybe corrected through one of my grandchildren,” said the former Warriors captain.
He added: “My first name came as a result of a wrong entry when my late father went to do my birth certificate. My name at birth was Mpenjani, but due to my father’s foreign accent, the pronunciation sounded like Benjani. In that regard, I grew up with an experience of being known by the wrong first name.”
Benjani Junior turns out for Portsmouth Academy, a club he joined when he was only six years old.
Speaking on Marawa Sports Worldwide show on South Africa’s Metro FM, the ex-Manchester City and Portsmouth striker, a man who now spots a bald head from the signature dreadlocks, said there was a time in his career that he was called Benjamin.
“When I was playing in Zimbabwe, the person who was writing the team-card didn’t look properly at my birth certificate. He thought Benjani was Benjamin, that is how this name Benjamin came from. Some in Zimbabwe knew me as Benjamin and also in South Africa.”
Mwaruwari went on to explain why European clubs put Benjani on his shirt instead.
“In France, it was difficult for them to pronounce my surname – Mwaruwari, it was too big. So, the coach at AJ Auxerre said: ‘This one is easy, let’s just put Benjani’. They got it right because they saw it (from my documents) written Benjani,” he said.
His football story would be incomplete without mentioning that he almost knocked on the Highlanders’ senior team door many years ago.
He played 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 in Bosso junior ranks.