FOR David « Yogi » Mandigora, the year 1980 holds special memories — he became the first winner of the Soccer Star of the Year award, in the newly-born nation.
He still has the beautiful pictures of the banquet, including one featuring runners-up Frank M’kanga of Risco and Black Aces’ genius Archieford « Chehuchi » Chimutanda.
Both M’kanga, a goalkeeper, Chimutanda, later played together with Mandigora, at Dynamos.
John Rugg and Highlanders’ James Nxumalo were joint winners of the 1980 Coach of the Year award and Frank Valdermarca was named Referee of the Year.
« I don’t know what it is like these days, but it was not easy winning the Soccer Star of the Year award those years, » said Mandigora.
« To be honest, I had not dreamt that one day I could win it because there was serious competition. The talent was top-notch.
« Remember, there were great players like Archieford Chimutanda, Shacky Tauro (the 1979 Soccer Star of the Year), Joseph Zulu, Stanford « Stix Mutizwa’, and all.
« No one would have complained if any one of the players, in the final short-list, was named Soccer Star. »
The previous decade was dominated by his icon and ex-Dynamos teammate, George « Mastermind » Shaya, whose record of winning the gong five times, still stands.
« Of course, George Shaya was one of the best players of that generation but, by then, he was slowing down, » said Mandigora.
« Remember, he had won it five times, in the previous decade.
« I was so happy to be the first player from Dynamos, to emulate him and, at the same time, it was so humbling, because he was my idol.
« I must say I did my bit for it because the previous year I was chosen among the finalists, with Tauro winning the top prize.
« So, winning it was great. »
Mandigora was promoted into the Dynamos senior team, at the beginning of 1977, joining legendary centreback, Sunday Chidzambwa, who joined the Glamour Boys from Chibuku Shumba.
Although Mandigora still rates his senior team debut for DeMbare, in 1977, as the most memorable moment in his career, the year 1980 will not quickly fade from his mind, for many reasons.
The four-nations Independence Cup final, when he scored one of the goals in the tense 2-1 win over Zambia at Rufaro, is one of his finest moments.
« That was the same time we were celebrating Independence, » he said. « Everyone was in party mood.
« We played Zambia in an Independence Trophy match at Rufaro and we beat them. I believe this was the icing on the cake for everybody.
« Remember, we were coming from isolation, because of the FIFA ban on Rhodesia.
« All along, we had been playing among ourselves and, so, it felt nice that we were going to be able to play international matches.
« That win against Zambia gave us the boost in confidence,which we needed, when we started playing the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers against other nations, soon after Independence.
« The game was really tough because the Zambians brought their big guns like Peter Kaumba, Godfrey Chitalu and Alex Chola. »
In 1980, Mandigora was one of three players who played in all of the Zimbabwe international matches.
The others were his teammates at Dynamos — Sunday and Oliver Kateya.
Mandigora’s success, during that golden period, could be attributed to his incredible non-stop running style, superb ball distribution and tremendous shooting power.
The soft-spoken Kadoma-born star, who is now 63, has been out of active football recently.
This followed the amputation of his leg.
He challenged aspiring young football players to pursue their dreams vigorously.
« Football is a paying career these days, especially if you hit the right chords, and find a good move overseas, » said Mandigora.
« There are so many youngsters, out there, who are aspiring to make it.
« My advice to them is, talent alone is not enough, you need to work hard and be disciplined.
« You need to have passion for what you do. Do the extras, even when the game has been halted, by Covid-19.
« I must also say this has been a difficult period, for footballers, because of the pandemic.
« Of course, some have been training individually, but it’s not the same with the intensity you give, when there is competition. »
l Additional reporting by Sports Editor Collin Matiza