Blessing ‘Yogo Yogo’ Makunike remembered as Manicaland’s football icon

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The late Mutare born and bred football legend Blessing 'Yogo Yogo' Makunike who sharpened his football skills at Mutare Boys' High School was this week remembered as the best footballer ever produced from the school that put Manicaland in the limelight through sport .

…Copa Coca Cola national finals roar to life

“When he was in Form one (1990), Makunike became captain of the Under 16 team. When he was in Form two (1991), Nelson Bandura was our player coach for the first team then, would use him sparingly because of his age. But Makunike however became a regular in the first team in Form three.  He made me look like a star striker because of his goal assists. I would rate him (high) up there with the likes of Ronald Sibanda…In 1993 he was part of the Mutare Boys’ High first team that hosted the Coca Cola national tournament and he was a phenomenal player to play with,” said Marewangepo.

Ngoni Dapira

THE late Mutare born and bred Zimbabwean international football sensation,Blessing ‘Yogo Yogo’ Makunike has been remembered as an iconic sports legend that ambitious young sportspersons from Manicaland can emulate and learn from.

The late Zimbabwe senior national team player and CAPS United star untimely passed away at the age of 27, in a tragic car accident on their way back from a league match in Bulawayo on 13 March 2004, together with two other teammates, Shingirai Alron and Gary Mashoko, and two supporters.

The Mutare Boys’ High team that hopes to write its own history after the 1998 national Coca Cola winning team captained by Tonderai Tsunga.

The memoir of the late football icon was being discussed in a social media group, Men of Valour, comprising of alumni from Mutare Boys’ High School this week, centering the debate on the Copa Coca Cola Under-15s national finals which roar to life tomorrow (Friday) in Zvishavane.

The Copa Coca Cola trophies for the 2018 edition. Picture by Allan Quotaforest.

The dice has been cast and tomorrow the two-day Copa Coca Cola Under-15s national finals will kick-off in the Zvishavane with 24 teams from allover the country competing for the Cup. The Copa Coca-Cola tournament, which is the country’s biggest schools football tournament, was last year rebranded into an Under-15 competition for both boys and girls. Zvishavane High will host the girls tournament and Mandava High the boys tournament.

Manicaland which is being represented by Mutare Boys’ High in the boys’ category and Nyamauru High School from the high density suburb of Dangamvura, in the girls category, has a herculean task ahead to bring the coveted Cup home in either categories, a feat which was last achieved in 1998 by Mutare Boys’ High.

FLASH BACK…The 1998 Mutare Boys High Coca-Cola Cup national winning team. The only team from Manicaland till to-date to lift the national title of the prestigious tournament which spans back to approximately 30 years now.

For the Mutare Shumbas as Mutare Boys’ High is affectionately known, its attendance this year has created a lot of excitement and historic nostalgia among its alumni and local followers of the Copa Coca Cola tournament, as the side has over the years been predominantly the most consistently dominating school to win the provincial finals. However, for the past two-years the Mutare Shumbas had been on a ‘forced’ sabbatical at the national finals after failing to qualify and will hope to make amends for that this year by going all the way and bring the trophy home.

The Mutare Shumbas have however been pitted in a very tough group comprising of the defending champions Rusununguko from Mashonaland East, the Prince Edward Tigers representing Harare province and the hosts Mandava High, so they will have to up their game to come out of the group stage.

Alumni from the football powerhouse school (Boys’ High) dating back as far as the class of 1980 were yesterday (Wednesday) reminiscing of the glory days and started delving on whether the Mutare Boys’ High would ever produce a national soccer star in the mould of Makunike, a former student from the class of 1990 to 1993 (Form One to Form Four).

Gabriel Marewangepo one of his teammates in the soccer team of 1993 that hosted the Coca-Cola national finals, said he will never forget how Makunike’s brilliance on the field made him appear as a star striker. He said everyone always said he would become something special of which he did, but sadly Yogo Yogo died at his prime.

“When he was in Form one (1990), Makunike became captain of the Under 16 team. When he was in Form two (1991), Nelson Bandura was our player coach for the first team then, would use him sparingly because of his age. But Makunike however became a regular in the first team in Form three.  He made me look like a star striker because of his goal assists. I would rate him (high) up there with the likes of Ronald Sibanda…In 1993 he was part of the Mutare Boys’ High first team that hosted the Coca Cola national tournament and he was a phenomenal player to play with,” said Marewangepo.

Another alumni Regis Mvenge said Makunike remains one of the best players ever to be nurtured by the school, who went on to become a football god in Manicaland and stepped up to play in the national team.

“To not mention Blessing Makunike as one of the soccer greats to come from our school would be an abomination. He played for ZUPCO FC when he was in Form two and then played for Kadoma Wild Cats and eventually CAPS United. Not leaving out that he played for the national team for some years,” said Mvenge.

The street in the high density suburb of Dangamvura which was named after Blessing Makunike.

At his funeral in Mutare, a historic convoy of cars was witnessed which to-date is yet to be surpassed, even by funerals of many prominent socialites like the late diamond kingpin Bothwell Hlahla, as thousands of people from all walks of life, far and wide, came to pay their last respect to the football legend in his home town. A street in Dangamvura where he grew up and horned his football skill on the streets has since been named in his honour, called ‘B. Makunike Yogo Yogo Drive’, an epitome of his immensity to the province as an elite sportsman that did not only Manicaland proud but the nation as well.

The Dangamvura born and bred football icon started his career in the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League at CAPS United in 1997, where he played until the end of the 2002 season. Together with his teammate, Leonard Tsipa, they left in 2002 and spent half a season in 2003 with Serbian club FK Javor. However, he and Tsipa came back to CAPS United in the next summer, playing in the second semester of the 2003 Zimbabwean football season.

From 1998 to 2001 he played eight matches for the Warriors, the Zimbabwe national football team, where his nickname Yogo Yogo became a household name which brought pride to the people of Manicaland, and years later paved way for others that came from Manicaland, the likes of Webster Kurwaisimba, Blessing Gumiso, Willard Katsande, Washington Arubi to mention a few.

Mutare Boys’ High is part of the 24 title contenders at the Copa Coca Cola tournament this year. Pic by Allan Quotaforest.

Mutare Boys High sports director Kudakwashe Dube said the Coca Cola tournament which has a rich history of developing football heroes spans back to 30 years ago.

“We are excited about this year’s Copa Coca-Cola, which will continue to touch the lives of thousands of teenagers across the country through the beautiful game. Since its inception, Coca-Cola has successfully used this tournament to instill important values of teamwork, sportsmanship and discipline in the lives of youngsters while encouraging teenagers to create lifelong positive memories and associations. As Boys High we are happy to be back this year. We are one of the few schools with a history of consistently taking part in this tournament so I am happy we are preserving that history,” said Dube who left with the team today (Thursday) in the morning.

At the 2018 edition of the Copa Coca Cola, from other regions in the boys category the provincial competitors are Masvingo Province (Pamushana High School), Harare (Prince Edward), Mashonaland East (Waddilove High School) and the defending champions Rusununguko (automatic qualification), Mashonaland West (Pfupajena School), Mashonaland Central (Kanyemba School), Bulawayo (Mpopoma High School), Matabelaland North (Somvubu School), Matabeleland South (Mtsabezi School) and Midlands (Guinea Fowl High School) along with the host Mandava High.

In the girls category there is Harare (Vainona High School), Mashonaland East (Chenhuta Secondary School), Mashonaland West (Mwami Secondary), Mashonaland Central (Gweshe School), Bulawayo (Mpopoma High School), Matabelaland North (Simbo Secondary School), Matabelaland South (Thekwane School), Masvingo (Birivenge School) and the defending champions Chidyamakono High School (automatic qualification) and Midlands (Chamakwanda School) along with the host Zvishavane High School.

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