By Charles Mabika Special Correspondent

IT was with a heavy heart and total sadness when I recently read about the destitute plight of former Dynamos and Warriors’ forward, Roderick Mutuma, after his sad and present situation went viral on social media.

Love him or hate him, “The Prince” — as we affectionately call him — is, without doubt, one of the naturally-born skillful players ever produced in this country.

But now, a decade after bursting onto the top-flight scene from unknown and former Division One outfit Sporting Manhenga to the lofty heights of the Glamour Boys where he immediately ignited the club’s faithful into countless frenzies with his cheeky back-heel passes, immaculate ball control and deft finishes, the gangly former gunslinger now finds himself in abject destitution, moving from one place to another as he finds himself roaming around the streets of Mbare and Highfield; and short of all those who claimed to be his allies in the not-too-distant past.

His career took an unexpected down turn after returning home from his last football stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he had found home at FC Lupopo before suffering a career-threatening injury.

Unfortunately, he fell victim to the widespread cancer of drug and substance abuse upon his return home, where he no longer had a steady source of income.

History is littered with many and brilliant footballers who for one reason or another, fell victim to publicity, indiscipline and failed to fulfill their ambition and vision to scale the game’s dizziest heights.

However, “The Prince” is not the only player from our local scene who fell into this bottomless pit of doom.

Indiscipline, falling prey to the bright lights of leisure, lack of training and practice are just a few of the factors that have plunged some of our superstars into oblivion after shining for a few short seasons.

Mutuma is only one of only six players who managed to play for “The Big Three” — CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders — during their careers.

Through a chequered career, he then ventured to the Democratic Republic of Congo where he landed a lucrative contract with FC Lupopo, the second most popular side there after TP Mazembe and after impressing for two seasons, he unfortunately broke his leg and returned home where his misfortunes started and now finds himself in dire straits.

I have watched and marveled at many magical artists who could have walked into any first team’s line-up anywhere on this continent and even in some European countries but ended up at the wrong end of the success tree. Here are just a few of them:

Archieford Chimutanda: For me, the greatest passer of the ball I ever watched in the land. An attacking midfielder who was in the same pin-point passing mould as a modern day Kevin De Bruyne of English Premiership giants Manchester City, “Chehuchi” would fashion a miraculous assist to any of his forwards with that pass slicing through an entire defence of four or five defenders. An ever-smiling architect of magical splendor, Chimutanda, who drove the midfield engines of giants like Black Aces, Dynamos and Arcadia United, simply didn’t push his ambition into greener pastures and always played truant when it came to training sessions, would be “AWOL” on many match days for his different clubs.

In the end, he wasted a huge opening that surely would have been open for him after he prematurely quit the game and later passed on without any meaningful accolades other than his unique skillful glitter.

Denver Mukamba: Oh, what a genius this boy is… or was! The former Dynamos midfield magician arrived on the big stage from Premiership debutants Kiglon back in 2011 and was an immediate hit with the DeMbare fans. His gliding waltzes, dribbling artistry and terrific finishes were out of this world. And like Chimutanda, he didn’t put much into his work ethics, as his off-the-field antics carved into his metabolic and spiritual attire to signal a downward trend that is proving difficult to revive.

“Mundikumbuke”, though, has tried to resurrect his mercurial career at Chapungu United and Ngezi Platinum and might manage the miraculous turn-around but time is fast running out.

Kudzanani Taruvinga: One of the finest-ever players to wear the famous green and white jersey of CAPS United. A roving and darting left wing back, “Kudzi” was a flamboyant operator down the wings as he created many goals for the pharmaceutical side with his overlapping crosses in the late 90s. Had an opportunity to venture to greener pastures outside the country but always had “other thoughts”. After he anonymously “disappeared” from the “Green Machine” training ground, he later re-surfaced at Chapungu United where he had a fair amount of success but was never the same bull terrier that he was at Manchester Road. Instead of keeping the “push” going, he “disappeared” again and never made it onto the playing fields again.

He is still around and can be seen at Glen Norah A shops doing “this and that” to earn a living. But what a large living he could have achieved if he had seriously followed his dream and ambition.

Rowan Nenzou: A highly gifted midfield workhorse and creative genius who was the driving force of army side Black Rhinos at the turn of the new millennium. Athletic and difficult to dispossess, “Nyanzvi” was just a marvel to watch when he was in full cry. He also specialised in scoring spectacular goals and was comfortable and in full control with both feet, a rare attribute that was inherent in only two living legends from the recent past — Moses “Bambo” Chunga and Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa.

Nenzou, like the other “uncaring” megastars from the same environs, prematurely quit the game without achieving anything worth his gigantic repertoire.

Nkululeko Dlodlo: Now, how many people know about this former Highlanders’ junior product who was nicknamed “Chunky”? Not many, I bet, because he never got very far because of his “careless” inhibition towards the game. I was fortunate to watch him sometime back and boy, I said to myself: “Now here is the heir-apparent to Bosso midfield dynamo Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo”. But it was never to be. On his day, he could tear any defence apart from his beloved midfield forays and craft countless opportunities for his front runners and even smack delicious efforts past the finest of ‘keepers. Sadly, again, “Chunky’s” story was finished long before he passed away a couple of years back.

Nqobizitha Maenzanise: The amazing attacking midfielder we called “Humpty” and was the mercurial force behind Zimbabwe Saints’ and Amazulu’s success stories in the late 90s and early 2000s. A cheerful player on and off the field, he did most of his talking on the pitch as he waltzed past the opposition from midfield and conjure up many ruthless raids for “Chauya Chikwata” and “Usuthu”. Once spurned the opportunity to sink his teeth into the Warriors fold after a call-up by head coach, Clemens Westerhof, by simply not turning up for camp. He was simply irresistible on the pitch but sadly, he is another great one whose football story was never fulfilled long before he passed away.

Nyasha Chazika: An attacking right-wing back who started his journey with Dynamos’ juniors and excellently graduated to become the national Under-23 skipper before he was snapped up by South African top-flight side, SuperSport United.

Then, unbelievably, his career slid down like quicksilver following his unfortunate dance with “Joburg’s bright lights in the night” of dazzling fun which resulted in him losing focus on his beloved game and his contract was not renewed. He returned home where he tried to resurrect a career that had promised so much but it was to no avail and he fell by the wayside.

Now destitute and living from hand to mouth in Mbare, “Nyale” is a glaring reminder to any aspiring youth protégés that total dedication and seriousness to the cause are the only ingredients for success.

The button to “self-destruct” continues to be pressed by many of our brilliant and aspiring players. For those of us who continue to love and cherish this beautiful game as its ardent followers, the eerie prick to our system when these special players throw it all away is forcefully unbearable, gruesome and frustrating.