Still In Touch With..,
One of the most celebrated footballers in Zimbabwe, Alois Bunjira was a midfielder who joined Free State Stars in September 1998, but moved to Bidvest Wits four months later. He had two stints with the club, sandwiched by a spell with Mamelodi Sundowns, a
Hi, Alois! Let’s talk first about your early days in South Africa, coming from Zimbabwe.
I first arrived at Free State Stars when it was still called Qwa-Qwa Stars. What happened is that we played against Bidvest Wits and I was outstanding in that game. The late Eddie Lewis, back then head coach at Wits, was on the stands and went like, “Look at that guy! We want him!” After the game, he approached me to come and play for Wits, and I told him to speak to my agent, Mike Makaab. The negotiations then went on behind the scenes and, within no time, I was transferred to Wits. I really enjoyed my time at the club because I was there for a long time. I stayed for five years before moving to Mamelodi Sundowns, where I spent 18 months. That was before moving back to Wits, where I stayed for a further two years.
Needless to say, you played with a whole host of funny guys in your long career.
At Stars, we had Themba Seli, who was very colourful. Patrick Mbuthu was one of the funniest guys as well. He loved his drink, yes, but he enjoyed a laugh too. He was a very funny guy! At Sundowns, the guys there were serious, perhaps with the exception of Charles Motlohi and Godfrey Sapula. Those guys were too serious about football, ha, ha. We never really used to hang around with each other as teammates – the guys would just mind their own business, come to Chloorkop, train and go home. I spent most of my time with Sashi Chalwe and Siaka Tiene. Funnily enough, it’s the club boss, Patrice Motsepe, that I have something funny to share about from my time there. He had his moments. This other time, shortly after he took over ownership of Sundowns, he was on his way to a meeting with the players and went through the parking lot. When he got to the meeting, the first thing he asked was, “Guys, who’s driving that gold Honda Ballade and that white Nissan Sentra?” Sapula was driving the Honda and the Nissan belonged to me, ha, ha, ha. He was like, “I saw those cars in the parking lot. Guys, this is Mamelodi Sundowns. I don’t want to see those cars here.” Ha, ha, ha. After he was informed who the cars belonged to, he said, “Bunj and Godfrey, please do something. I’m paying you good money here. At Sundowns, we buy big cars.” All along, the other players were having a good laugh. But that pushed me. I was like, Okay, I need to buy a better car now.’
Ha, ha, ha.
At Wits, I had a lot of guys that I could call friends and they were characters. Ashley Makhanya used to make us laugh a lot. There was also Oscar Mohohlo. I was very close to my homeboy Charles Yohane and I can actually say he was my best friend. The two of us were always together. Even when I moved to Sundowns, we used to hang out. I remember he once told you on Still In Touch’ that I liked giving too much attention to my hair... yeah, he wasn’t lying and we actually had a good laugh about that, ha, ha, ha. I remember one time he was busy talking to me and I was busy with my hair. Yho, he went mad, ha, ha, ha! He lashed out at me for it, but I was paying attention to all he was saying, just that I wasn’t looking at him. Eish, it was one of those things. But you must tell him that I say he was a really shy guy back in those days. We were roommates, but something that people don’t know is that we were soapie addicts as well. We used to watch The Bold and the Beautiful, Generations and all of these other soapies... all of them! We never missed an episode. When we were not at home, Yohane would record all of them and then, after training, we’d come back and indulge. Our coach, Roger de Sa, also cracked a lot of jokes with the players. He was one of the best coaches I have ever worked with.
Please share some light-hearted stories with our readers.
Eddie Lewis and Chancy Gondwe used to fight a lot because Gondwe never really liked to be corrected on his mistakes. This one time, Lewis was trying to tell him what he was supposed to do, but Gondwe was having none of it and started an argument. Of course, this rubbed Lewis up the wrong way and he told Gondwe, “You are going out!” Gondwe replied, “No, no, no, I am not going out!” Ha, ha, ha. We always knew that when Lewis and Gondwe started with one of their fights, we just had to sit back, watch... and laugh. But Lewis was quite a character, I’m telling you. I re- member this other time, I was still new and it was our second game of the season. We were playing Manning Rangers at Chatsworth Stadium and it was very hot that day. We were trailing 1-0 at halftime and he was angry. I just think he was looking for a scapegoat at that point. When I got to the change room, I took off my boots just to get some fresh air. He went mad! He was shouting at me, “Why are you taking off your boots? Why are you taking off your boots? That’s why we are losing!” The guys couldn’t help but laugh and I just quickly put on my boots again. We went back onto the field and, fortunately, we won 2-1 and I scored the winner. He was the happiest man after the game!
Happy ending, ha, ha.
You know, I didn’t like flying. This is like a confession and I hope Roger won’t kill me for this, as I’ve never told anyone about it. We were going to play away and the squad was announced. We were supposed to meet at Lanseria Airport around 07h00, from where we were supposed to fly out. I then called Roger to tell him that I had a runny stomach and wouldn’t be making it. The coach was not entertaining the idea, and inside of me, I was adamant I was not going. So the club kept calling me and I would tell my friend to pick up the calls and tell them I was not felling well at all. Eventually the club gave up and left without me. After the game, I called Yohane and he told me it had been raining for most of their journey and the plane almost crashed. I said, “Thank God I didn’t go! I would have died on that flight!” Ha, ha, ha. For real, I was relieved that I missed that trip! That’s how powerful my fear of flying was. I think we drew 1-1 in that match and we probably would have won if I had come along. I really enjoyed my time in South Africa and I hope that one day I will come back as a coach. Sure. Right now I’m running a football academy, which I started in 2012. My boys, who were 13 years old back then, are now big boys. I was assistant coach at CAPS United for some time, then became marketing manager and coach at the club. I’ve done my coaching courses and I’m just left with CAF A Licence now, which is the highest level of coaching in Africa. Thanks for your time and good luck. Thanks. I’d like to say to your readers that they must have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Be safe on the roads, as there are a lot of accidents at this time, and don’t drink and drive. Enjoy what’s left of the year.
“I hope Roger won’t kill me for this…”