Before he moved to Portugal to play for Sporting Braga, Freddy Mkwesha used to strike terror in the hearts of many defenders because of his aerial prowess. With his physical presence, I understand he was as strong as an ox , pardon the cliche, Mkwesha was dominant in the air especially at corner kicks. He caused so much terror that some of the white defenders for teams like Salisbury Callies who did not quite know how to pronounce his name would panic every time a corner was being taken. “Mark Makwesha !! “, they would shout at each other. Despite the desperate instructions, Freddy would still rise high to score one of his trademark headers.
In this article, allow me to pay tribute to those in our football narrative for whom the head was a lethal weapon to be deployed against opposition defenders and goalkeepers. There are many but I will limit my selection to ten.
Here we go-
Freddy Mkwesha – my introduction has already done justice to this man’s heading ability. When Sporting Braga visited Rhodesia in 1966, they were so impressed by Mkwesha they immediately signed him. He was a hard hitter of the ball with his feet but was equally dangerous with his head. It is such a shame that our records are in shambles and we do not have easy access to his statistics. Hopefully one day, a visit to the Portugal Football Association will help to put the matter to bed. I am sure there are some records tucked away somewhere which will confirm not only his ability with his feet but also with his head.
Shadreck Ngwenya- Zimbabwe fans will always remember Shadreck Ngwenya for that radio advert ” Bhora rakaipa iro asi Shadreck Ngwenya aridzora nemusoro!!” . This was a Lever Brothers advert for Stork Margarine a sumptuous product spread on bread. With that he earned the nickname ” Stork Margarine.” The advert lauded his defensive abilities with his head but Ngwenya was also equal to the task of scoring goals with his head.
One incident which happened in 1978 confirmed his scoring prowess with his head. Ngwenya had moved to Moroka Swallows after a starring role as player coach for Dynamos in 1976 when the team swept five of the six trophies on offer. In his first match in South Africa against Highlands Park, Ngwenya scored four goals, three of them with his head. That is a hat trick of headers, simply amazing. According to a report in the Chronicle, one South Africa newspaper captured it well. It said, ” If Highlands Park had a licence to kill,they would have chopped off Shadreck ‘s head !”
I am not sure how many more headed goals he scored but what an impact he had on his debut. Allow me therefore to add him to this esteemed list.
Daniel ” Dhidhidhi ” Ncube -it is an uncontested fact that Daniel Ncube scored goals and he scored many with his head. Every time his winger had the ball , Ncube made a run into the box while pointing to his forehead. The ball would come right on the money and ” Dhidhidhi ” would bury it. What a great header of the ball the legend was. Legend has it that he was capable of scoring four goals in one match with his head.
Shacky Tauro- the man we all knew as ” Mr. Goals ” was powerful both on the ground as well as in the air. I remember a photo of the legend rising above the goalkeeper with the caption ” Tauro hates goalkeepers !” He managed to outjump the goalkeeper and nod the ball into the nets. This was a regular occurrence in our football narrative, Tauro was lethal in the air and there was a time when we honestly believed that he could fly!
Gift Mpariwa – we knew him as a ” Ghetto ” or ” Muduso ” the legend was the complete package as a striker. He had pace, power, was sure footed and was also lethal with his head. When he played for Dynamos , Mpariwa was a huge beneficiary of Moses Chunga’s generous and pinpoint crosses. ” Razorman” as Chunga was known had the ability to deliver the perfect cross and Mpariwa was the grateful recipient Well until he received the top goal scorer cheque with which he disappeared conveniently forgetting to invite the provider of then crosses to the party. They did not call him ” Muduso” for nothing!
Amin Soma Phiri- was known in football circles as ” Mr. Fix It “, he did exactly that , fix matters especially with his head. A friend, Cad Abbito who is a keen follower of Bulawayo giants Highlanders Football Club a team which Makwinji played for had this to say about the legend ,” Amin scored a hat-trick of identical headers at the Mpilo end to help sink arch rivals Dynamos. It was his best match for Bosso by a mile. He gave the late Misheck Marimo a torrid time!”, he said with a chuckle. Indeed Makwinji was so good with his head and the Highlanders fans at Babourfields Stadium often looked forward to a great show each time ” Mr. Fix It” trotted onto the field.
Makwinji Soma Phiri – What Amin Soma could do, his young brother Makwinji Soma Phiri excelled at too. ” Kwinji 15 ” as he is known in our football narrative, built his reputation on scoring goals with his head. He banged them in for Highlanders Football Club, his boyhood club. Then he moved to arch rivals Dynamos where he specialised in bringing tears to the fans of his former club. I guess the Bosso fans were tired of seeing his face, a former son terrorising their team. It was joy for Dynamos but pain for the black and white army. Indeed Makwinji was a renowned header of the ball.
Maronga ” The Bomber ” Nyangela- The Bomber packed a punch with his right foot but he also banged them in with his head. Talk of bullet headers, that was a Maronga speciality, “rinoiita kunge rarohwa ne gumbo , its like he has used his legs !” fans used to say.
Friday Phiri-nicknamed ” Breakdown ” for his strength or ” Amayenge ” Friday Phiri was a diving header specialist. Any low cross into the box was often met not by Friday’s size eleven boot but by his head. I lost count of the number of times he used his head to win the match for his club Caps United. Not only did he go for low crosses, he also showed his aerial prowess when attacking high crosses. Amayenge was a complete package.
Nhamo Shambira- He was diminutive but what a header of the ball he was. His credentials were enhanced when he outjumped the towering Misheck Marimo to score the winning goal in a pulsating cup final at Rufaro stadium. The accompanying picture in the Herald sealed his place in football folklore. How had he managed that , we always wondered !
This as I always say is not an exhaustive list and I hope this can initiate the debate. I know there are many other legends who were very good with their heads. Feel free to add more names.
On a sad note, most of the legends discussed in this article are now late. Freddy Mkwesha, Shadreck Ngwenya, Daniel Ncube, Shacky Tauro, Gift Mpariwa, Friday Phiri, Nhamo Shambira, Misheck Marimo are now departed. But we take comfort in telling the story of their exploits. The story as the legendary Chinua Achebe declared, “.. lives long after the exploits of brave Warriors…the story is our escort”. May Their Souls Continue To Rest In Peace!