ZIMBABWE soccer captain and Manchester City striker Benjani Mwaruwari’s success story reads like a fairytale. He played in the Zimbabwean Premier League for not more than a year, and he was off on a journey that has taken him around the world. This is The Truth About Benjani Mwaruwari:
Born: August 13, 1978
Home Town: Bulawayo
Marital Status: Married to Thembi, with four children.
Briefly, tell us where it all started, and how you got here?
I first played for Young Blood, a junior team in Bulawayo, and then I moved to Highlanders and played in the reserves there. I joined Lulu Rovers, and then moved to the University of Zimbabwe before a stint at Air Zimbabwe.
I was on the verge of joining AmaZulu in 1999 but I was called up for the Zimbabwe national team which played at Thabo Mbeki’s inauguration in South Africa. I played well in the game and I was approached by Jomo Sono who signed me for Jomo Cosmos.
I didn’t stay long there as I soon moved to Grasshoppers Zurich in Switzerland. A move to Auxerre in France followed. Harry Rednkapp signed me for Portsmouth in 2006 and a few years later, I am here at Manchester City.
What did you want to be when you were little?
I never really wanted to be anything … You can say I had no serious ambition. Some kids had all these grand ambitions of being doctors and so on, but I never really set myself a target. I was just floating along.
POMPEY FANS TRIBUTE TO BENJANI
What were you like at school?
I was always an athlete at primary school. I liked running, long jump and football. I did everything, I was a proper athlete and I was quick. I think I set the 100m and 200m records at Mhali Primary School in Bulawayo.
I lost interest in running when I got to secondary, because I got more hooked on football. At that time, I was inspired by Ian Wright. I followed his career like religion, and I liked his natural goal scoring ability. I guess that makes me an Arsenal supporter, yes I was!
What would you say has been the highlight of your career?
I think more than anything else I would say playing for all these years in Europe. It’s the hardest thing to break into European teams and I have managed it at four teams. I have scored some memorable goals along the way. Two goals stand out -- one scored against Barcelona when I was still at Grasshoppers, and the other for Jomo Cosmos against Kaizer Chiefs. The goals were almost similar in that I just stepped out of the centre circle and struck the ball sweetly into the nets.
What habit do you wish you could change?
I am always sleeping when I have nothing to do. When I do have some things to do, I am usually tired.
How do you deal with anger and what gets you upset?
That’s my other problem. I have a short temper, but now I am trying to be calmer. There are a lot of things that get me upset, because usually when you have a short temper, you easily get angry at the slightest provocation. Sometimes you get upset but handle it better. I guess it goes with patience, I have no patience. When I want something, I want it done there and then. I don’t want to wait.
What are you most afraid of?
Ships and planes! I use planes because there is no other means, but flying wrecks my nerves. With ships, I tell myself that if there is any funny mishap, then I am dead because I am a very bad swimmer. So before going on one, I would be thinking what will happen when it sinks?
If your house burnt down, what would you save?
My phone and passport. Invaluable.
Man and his garage ... Benjani's wheels, an Escalade and a BMW M6
How would you describe yourself in a personal ad?
I am very, very shy and you know when you are shy, you are also quiet. I like being where the people are, because I grew up among people. I am very sociable and easy going.
How is your love life?
I am married to Thembi and have four kids -- Colines, Benjani Junior, Belle (which is French for Beauty) and Tiyezhe who was born in January.
What’s your idea of a sexy woman?
Someone like Angelina Jolie. Perhaps I would do myself a favour by saying someone like my wife!
When you stop playing, how are you going to spend your time?
I want to raise my kids until they are employed and able to fend for themselves. I want them to have a better childhood than I had and a good life. I also plan to have a football academy in Zimbabwe for our promising young players and hopefully get them to play in Europe. There is no reason why we can’t have more Zimbabweans playing in the European leagues.
Palacial ... Benjani's Bournemouth house