Tendai Chieza is a former Zimbabwean footballer who played for Mhangula, Bulawayo Sables, Salisbury Sables and the Zimbabwe national team then known as Rhodesia.
Tendai Chieza the 1970 Soccer Star of the year is one of the seven brothers who played for Mhangula in the 1960’s and early 70’s. His father Gideon was the Welfare Officer at the mine and hence all his sons had an opportunity to play for the team. The other six brothers were Hector a goalkeeper, George ,Itai, who is now late, Isaac, Winston and Temba. The team also comprised Jonathan Munjoma and Aleck Masanjala both nephews thereby making it a family affair in the true sense of the phrase. Tendai now lives in Wolverhampton and is married to Roselyn whom he wedded in 1972. He has four children Gideon, Gerald, Tafadzwa and Julian and five grand children.
His football journey started while he was still at school at Bernard Mzeki College in 1954. During the holidays, he would play for Mhangula. Linkman, captain and player coach for Mhangula. One of the most versatile players in the game and the brain behind Mhangula success. He was also one of the only two qualified African coaches in Rhodesia. This was some achievement, player coach, captain, midfield kingpin!
Most people know that Tendai was the Soccer Star of the year in 1970 but he also won the national award in 1968 when the awards were sponsored by the Rhodesia National Football league. “I have two Soccer Star awards but the one sponsored by Castle lager is the only one that is officially recognized.”
According to Tendai, the Mhangula team of the 1970’s was a formidable one which struck fear in the hearts of many teams including giants like Dynamos Football Club. The notable stars in the team included George Kondowe, one of the best attacking linkman of his era, Jonathan Munjoma, Pillemon Phiri, Aleck Masanjala, Lovemore Nyabeza, Booker Muchenu, Joseph Galloway, the six brothers earlier mentioned and James Banda.
One of the highlights for this team was to lift the Castle Cup in 1973. “I have vivid memories of that cup final. I even remember our goal scorers, Itai, Aleck and Lazarus. We spend time in camp and talked about how to attack, amazingly the goals came exactly as we had rehearsed them” , recalled Tendai. The team also won the Chibuku trophy, this was a very successful era for the club.
In between his stints with Mangula, Tendai also had a spell at Bulawayo Sables, a team sponsored by the National Breweries. As as a qualified coach, he also had the task of coaching throughout the region. This was under the National Breweries coaching scheme in 1968. After going back to Mhangula as player coach, an offer came from Salisbury Sables. Tendai did not hesitate to move. Salisbury Sables secured him employment with Rothmans and among his teammates were Simon “Super” Supiya, William Sibanda, Peter Nyama, Daniel Chikanda, Shepherd Murape and Goose Galloway.
“We were paid well and also had a bonus for each goal scored. To maximise, we came up with a game plan. We instructed Peter to stay as far up field as possible and conserve his energy. We supplied him with good passes and his job was to bury the chance and boy did he bury them! We were all happy, our wallets were always fat..” said legend Tendai with a glowing smile.
In 1975, he was approached by Reuben Zemura to be the player coach at Zimbabwe Saints Football Club, then Mashonaland United. This name was changed because of the tribal connotations that it carried, Dr Herbert Ushewokunze insisted on this change. On the other half of town, Dr Joshua Nkomo also encouraged Matabeleland Highlanders to drop the word Matabeleland and just stick with Highlanders Football Club. This was an attempt to unite the people since this was at the height of the liberation struggle. The Nationalists were trying to stop the football rivalry from being toxic because of the tribal nature of the names.
Despite the change of names, the football rivalry remained fierce and the tribal allegiances unabated. He recalls a situation which put this into perspective. In one season, Highlanders had signed Itai and Winston while he was at Zimbabwe Saints together with George. The four brothers were caught in a rivalry that divided a city. “The week before the derby, we did not speak, a week after the derby, we did not speak, this was a strange situation for all of us…football was keeping us apart..!”, said Tendai.
As earlier stated, Tendai prefers not to dwell much on the factionalism that bedevilled the club which he feels contributed to its demise. Power struggles were the norm but he preferred not to give names. I was left with a lot of questions, maybe if I get the chance to talk to Vincent Pamire and Gibson Homela the current main actors at the club, answers will be given.
Reuben Zemura, Dr. Ushehwekunze, Peter Nepare and Nyashanu all had an opportunity to lead the club in the past. A better understanding of the power struggles can only be possible if these powerful men could speak out. Unfortunately that is no longer possible because some of them are long dead, gone with their secrets. Meanwhile we can only lament “Cry the beloved Saints..”
One man who does not mince his words about the problems at Saints is Jethro “Chemmy” Hunidzarira. He gave an interview and those who want to find out more can read for themselves. Tendai's notable achievements at Zimbabwe Saints were winning the 1977 Castle Cup, the league championship in 1988, the Chibuku trophy and playing in the Champions league. He was the head coach/team manager in the all conquering Chauya Chikwata team. His assistant was Roy Barreto with Roger Russell as the physical trainer.
As usual, Gibson Homela can also claim credit for this success. Homela returned to the Saints set up with four games to go and three points needed to wrap up the league. Indeed success has many fathers. The team went on a 23 match unbeaten run, “When the Saints go marching in, go marching in, Lord I want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in…”, the supporters sang! It was tiki-taka at its best and for that Tendai Chieza and his crew deserve credit.
Those who worked with Tendai Chieza attest to his leadership qualities. Former Zimbabwe National team captain and Saints stalwart Ephraim Chawanda had this to say, “Mr. Tendai Chieza was not just a football coach, he was a father figure and a life coach.
- Winning the 1977 Castle Cup, the league championship in 1988, the Chibuku trophy and playing in the Champions league.
- 1968 and 1970 Soccer Star Awards
- Lot Chitakasha, , Nehanda Radio, Published: 21 September, 2017, Accessed: 19 July, 2020