Football heroes and nicknames: An African perspective An every (football) day wonder … Peter NSUNKUZONKE Ndhlovu

Spread This News

Gift ‘GHETTO MUDUSO’ Mpariwa: Every game for him was a money game. MUDUSO for those not familiar with ghetto lingo is slang for money and for him every goal scored was like a pay cheque.
OVER the years African football has produced some great players. What has left a permanent mark on the mind is not only the skills, the great goals and the defending but also the legend that has developed around these players. For instance a certain player in Zimbabwe had a reputation of playing with a list of all creditors in his pair of socks; apparently this motivated him to play and win so he could pay off the loans. May I hasten to add that most of the creditors happened to be shebeen queens from whom he would have borrowed crates of beer.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the nicknames that have been attached to our football heroes and the origins of some of them and reflect on the qualities inherent in these players but also the creative nature of our fans. The focus of this paper is Zimbabwe and our neighbour South Africa. In future, I hope to make an exploration of other African countries.
Zimbabweans will remember the days of George Shaya, Peter Nyama, Chita Atonio, Freddy Mkwesha, Obediah Sarupinda, Shaw Handriede the list goes on. George Shaya was known as the Mastermind. The reason for this is obvious. Adoring fans appreciated his football brain and he proved this by going on to win the much-coveted soccer star of the year award five times. His dribbling skills, passing and scoring abilities made him the mastermind indeed and the fans were quick to come up with this nickname.
I watched George Shaya towards the tail-end of his career but my brother Saul believed and still believes that he was better than Maradona … now that is some claim! Players of his generation include Peter Thunderboots Nyama, the nickname being a product of his booming shots. Legend has it that one of the shots actually ripped through the nets. The only other person with such a powerful shot was George TNT Rollo whose shot once ripped the nets during his playing days at Black Aces. Obediah Sarupinda was known as WASU because of his Manicaland roots.
The conveyer belt of talent continued in the 1980s and the 1990s. Let’s look at the Dynamos team of the 80s.There was Japhet SHORTCAT Mparutsa, his height and handling ability gave rise to this one. There was Oliver FLYING SAUCER Kateya, his speed down the wings was a nightmare for most teams. These days people talk of wingbacks but we used to know them as overlapping defenders and Oliver was a pioneer of the art. In the same team was Edward TWINKLETOES MADHOBHA Katsvere.Advertisement

For an explanation of these nicknames I am arranging an interview with Graham IRON MAN Boyle, the former Rio Tinto defender. He was known as IRON MAN because of his strength in defence but against MADHOBHA he would struggle to such an extent that he would either be substituted or be shown the red card for persistent fouling. The battles between the two was a subplot to the bigger battle between the two teams which would keep the spectators on their feet. In the same team were David YOGI Mandigora, Ernest MR COOL Mutano and Misheck SCANIA Marimo. Some of the nicknames are self-explanatory although I am still trying to figure out how YOGI came about – perhaps he ate a lot of yoghurt.
Harare teams
The late 80s came with Moses RAZORMAN Chunga, Kenneth COMPUTER Jere, Gift GHETTO MUDUSO Mpariwa. Gift Mpariwa was a legend of the game, the nickname MUDUSO came from his football approach. Every game for him was a money game, MUDUSO for those not familiar with ghetto lingo is slang for money and for him every goal scored was like a pay check. RAZORMAN to the so-called 7 MIILION DEMBARE supporters – I am sure they will claim that the number is now 13 million – was as sharp as a razor which cuts from both sides.
COMPUTER Jere was that fast and this name came long before we knew much about computers, again pointing to the innovativeness of our supporters. As for the nickname DEMBARE, I credit that to Charles Mabika the doyen of Zimbabwe football commentary who, after watching DINAMO DEFIMA of Madagascar play CAPS then coined the name Dembare.
The CAPS United team of the 80s was packed with talent with no shortage of exciting nicknames to complete the mix. Joel Shambo was known as the HEADMASTER, Shacky Tauro was MR GOALS, Friday Phiri was BREAKDOWN; then there was Stanford STIX Mtizwa and Charlie KABHASIKORO Jones. Joel Shambo was the complete midfielder with amazing ball skills, Shacky was the ultimate goal machine hence the nickname. Friday Phiri had so much strength he was like breakdown recovery truck and Charlie Jones was a speed merchant with so much pace down the wing. Later, CAPS United had Silver BHONZO Chigwenje, Tobias ROCK STEADY Sibanda, Blessing YOGO-YOGO Makunike and Never MASWERASEI Chiku. I find the legend of Maswerasei interesting. This nickname derived from a lion which used to roam around KARIBA, terrorising villagers in broad daylight.
Likewise Never Chiku would terrorise defenders and ghost from nowhere to score some crucial goals for the green machine. I can go further to talk about Joe KODE Mugabe, Stuart SHUTTO Murisa and Alois ZOLA Bunjira…the list is endless. What cannot be disputed is the fact that the nicknames matched the qualities inherent in the players and most importantly shows the ingenuity of the fans who came up with the names.
Bulawayo teams
In the City of Kings, Bulawayo, from Highlanders BOSSO, we also had talent galore and no shortage of nicknames. Madinda was KATAZILE, Willard Khumalo was simply Mahwii, Douglas BRITISH Mloyi, Mercedes RAMBO Sibanda, Alexander COOL RULER Maseko, Peter NSUNKUZONKE Ndhlovu. PETER was an everyday wonder and he was also known as the FLYING ELEPHANT during his playing days in England …what a player he was. Alexander Maseko was the COOL RULER because he never panicked under pressure. Their city rivals Zimbabwe Saints CHIKWATA gave us Ephraim ROCK OF GIBRALTAR Chawanda, Henry BULLY Mckop and Mzondiwa LAZY MZO Mgadza. The one that stands out for me here are THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR…Ephraim was simply a defensive rock, immovable both for Chikwata and the national team.
South Africa
The South African team that was given a baptism of fire by Zimbabwe in their first post-apartheid era match was packed with talent and interesting nicknames. The team mauled 4-1 had in their ranks John SHOES Moshoue, Donald ACE Khuse, Max GO MAN GO Maponyane, Phillimon CHIPPA Masinga and the legendary Doctor Khumalo. It was a good team with interesting players and nicknames…the 4-1 mauling was capped by that fine individual goal by PETER … what a spectacle it was.
Over the years we have been blessed with great players who had captivating nicknames. I might just mention Achford CHEHUCHI Chimutanda, Maronga THE BOMBER Nyangela, George Zambia Mbwando, Vitalis DIGITAL Takawira and Benjamin Makanaky Nkonjera – the list goes on.
AS posited earlier, the nicknames are testimony to both the qualities of the players and the creativity of the fans. There has been bad ones too, like Albert DHALALA Mabika, I know he hated that one and Max SIKOROKORO Makanza – for his lack of speed – he hated it preferring SCARA instead; and imagine burdening someone with the nickname SISTER, that was Samson Choruwa for you. I never found out why he was given this name, unfortunately his career was cut short by injury and he simply slipped off the radar.
What comes to the fore in this discussion is that nicknames are a part of our football culture, reflecting the special relationship between the player and fans. Although journalists have coined some names, the popular nicknames are a product of the creativeness of the fans, so let us keep them rolling; it is what makes football such a joy. I hope the fans continue to be creative. I was sad to read that Peter Moyo’s nickname is RIO…that is not creative or imaginative is it? Compared with MADHOBHA or better still Muduso – no contest!