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

Soccer Laduma - - Make Your Point - ALOIS BUN­JIRA By Lunga Adam

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…”

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