By CHARLES MABIKA
JUST like his long-time Hollywood action movie hero, Jackie Chan, former Harare City’s head coach, Taurai “Bla Jack” Mangwiro, is also “kicking high” at his new base in Botswana.
Mangwiro, who arrived at Botswana’s Premiership football side Orapa United last November soon after the relegation of the “Sunshine Boys” at the completion of the local Premiership, has since led his new outfit to third position in the 16-team top flight’s standings after 11 rounds of matches.
In a recent interview with The Herald from his base in the Southern African country, “Bla Jack” said after the recent disappointing and “biggest blemish on my coaching career following Harare City’s relegation, I felt I needed a fresh and different environment for a new challenge”.
Orapa United, nicknamed “The Ostriches”, are based in the diamond-mining town of the same name and located in the country’s central district, whose mine is regarded as the largest diamond-producing reserve in the world.
“After I was the most successful applicant from a number of high-ranking and experienced coaches, some of whom were foreigners, I was warmly received by the club’s leadership and legion of fans.
“So I immediately hit the ground running and started work after three rounds of matches, as they had already started the season under a caretaker mentor. I then led the team to five wins out of six of our fixtures,” revealed Mangwiro.
“The Ostriches” are currently five points behind leaders Gaborone United who have 29 points and three points behind second-placed Jwaneng Galaxy.
The heavily-built Zimbabwean mentor revealed that the side’s leadership are very ambitious and have tasked him to develop the side into not only becoming a dominant force in their land but to also “make waves on the whole continent”.
“I’m extremely happy here and the club, who gained promotion from the National First Division at the end of the 2013-14 season, are very keen on winning their first topflight league title.
“They won the country’s premier knockout tournament — the FA Challenge Cup — and Mascom Top 8 Cup and have gone on to compete in the CAF Confederation Cup twice where they didn’t do well.
“So the hunger for success is all too evident from the club’s stakeholders, including the fans,” said Mangwiro.
When they won the FA Challenge Cup they were under the tutelage of Highlanders legendary forward, Madinda “Kathazile” Ndlovu.
Mangwiro also took time to reflect on the sad and frustrating 2022 Zimbabwean season where he tried to steer the “Sunshine Boys” ship onto steady waters but dismally failed,
“Since I started coaching back in 2004 at Eastern Region Division One side Gutu Leopards where I was assistant to Saul Chaminuka, the lowest position I ever encountered was only twice — ninth place finishes — with Monomotapa and Triangle United.
“I achieved higher positions with Masvingo United, CAPS United and during my first tenure with Harare City.
“I will never pass the buck and blame Harare City’s relegation on someone else. I was the leader of the team and I fully accepted responsibility for that failure.
:My greatest wish is for this great side to bounce back and rebuild its brand and strength,” he confessed.
“But life goes on and I have another big task at hand now with my new side which has three Zimbabwean players in the first team — Aces Youth Academy product and central defender, Tapiwa Nyamanjiva; ex-Mutare City attacking midfielder Kelvin Bingala and roving forward Leeroy Mavunga, who was the talisman at Yadah FC.
“We also have three other top Zimbabwean coaches plying their trade here in the Premiership — Rahman ‘Dr Rush’ Gumbo, who is head coach at Morupule Wanderers; Mandla ‘Lulu’ Mpofu, who heads the technical bench at Masitaoka, and Blessing Moyo, who is an assistant coach at Jwaneng Galaxy.
“And it’s quite refreshing when we all get together during our free time and talk about the good times back home,” Mangwiro chuckled.
“Bla Jack” also paid tribute to the various coaches whom he said helped to shape his illustrious coaching career in Zimbabwe.
“The most influential figure in my journey was former Warriors’ youth coach, Nelson Matongorere who taught me most of the tricks that I used to conjure victory.
“Then, of course, I still relish the important lessons from the late Jimmy Malomo, who was my first instructor when I undertook my Level One coaching course.
“Others who made me what I am today are Gibson ‘Home Boy’ Homela, Norman ‘Muchina weMajuzi’ Mapeza, Chaminuka, Luke ‘Vahombe’ Masomere, Maxwell Takaendesa Jongwe and Methembe ‘Mayor’ Ndlovu,” he revealed.
“It’s still a long way to go before the season ends here (in Botswana) but we are firmly focused as a club and will give it a heavy tug to land our maiden championship and then grow from strength to strength.”
Any plans of ever coming back home to coach again?
“Oh, you can bet your last dollar that I will be back! We almost won the league title when I was assistant to Masomere back in 2005 with Masvingo United and finished just a point behind winners CAPS United.
“So, when I come back home, I want to try my best and win the league title with whoever will trust me to deliver,” vowed Mangwiro.
Mabika is a veteran Zimbabwean sports journalist, TV and radio icon.