Zimbabwe: Judge Me On the Pitch, Says Kawondera

EYE-CATCHING images of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and the Black Panther are tattooed on each side of forgotten Warriors striker Shingirai Kawondera's shoulders.

To the dreadlocked Kawondera, the Black Panther tattoo symbolises freedom from oppression while that of Tupac is a sign of the respect he has for the late rapper.

Just like his idol, Kawondera lives a controversial life that courts as much attention as he does with his immense talent.

Blessed with sublime dribbling skills and a burst of speed, Kawondera was once described by BBC sports journalist Farai Mungazi as the next Peter Ndlovu after the 1999 CAF Under-17 African Championships in Guinea.

That year Kawondera left for Poland amid hopes that would be his launchpad into in an established European league.

Sadly, the 29-year-old's story is a tragic one as 13 years later, he remains languishing in the lower rungs of an obscure Cyprus third tier league.

Unlike his peers plying their trade in Europe, the dreadlocked star has neither investment nor any property to show for his toil and word is that he is broke.

Now questions are being asked whether it's the dreadlocked youngster's lifestyle that destroyed his once promising career. Stories of his love for the fairer sex and night life in Harare's night spots has been filtering into the ears of many for years.

Kawondera briefly joined the Warriors fold to help Zimbabwe qualify for the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt. However, clashes with the then national team coach, Charles Mhlauri, resulted in him being dropped from the Warrior squad.

"Many have the misconception that I misbehave. People should judge me by how I perform on the field and not how I spend my time outside football. That is the problem I had with Charles Mhlauri," said Kawondera.

Allegations of age-cheating were also thrown at the player after he was accused of using a birth certificate belonging to a woman.

"There was a mistake with my birth certificate as it was written female. We corrected the mistake, but they had not changed the birth entry number," he said.

Kawondera admitted he has nothing to show for nearly 13 seasons in Europe and that he had fathered three kids with three different women.

Among these women is Mary Mubaiwa, who was his wife of four years. Mubaiwa is now married to General Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

"All along I was just enjoying myself and never made any investments. (Taimbofara zvedu). I hope to start something this year," he said.

"I am not planning to marry anytime soon because I have failed before and all the women I have lived with say I am arrogant. Maybe the problem is that I am not used to company since I started living alone in Poland at a very young age."

Kawondera, a self-confessed Mugabe supporter, claims that his playing in the lower rungs of Cyprus football was to give him time to "complete a Political Science degree which he is studying by correspondence with an American college."

The star hopes to one day play for a local club.

"I will be in the country till August so if an offer for a short contract from a local club comes along, I will take it," he said.

Kawondera started his career at Wieslaw Grabowisk's Darryn T in 1998 and between 1999 and 2002 played for Polish club Górnik Zabrze before signing for Cypriot First Division outfit AEP Paphos during the 2005.

In 2005-2006, he played for the Turkish club Gaziantepspor before moving back to South Africa in 2007 where he joined Supersport United.

In July 2007 he signed a two-year contract with the Cypriot club AEK Larnaca. However, in January 2008, he moved to Nea Salamina. Since then he has been wondering from club to club in the lower rungs of Cyprus leagues.

Will he, like the proverbial phoenix, rise from ashes? Only time will tell.

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