The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Denver's Secret Tale

DENVER MUKAMBA turned down a US$30 000 signing-on fee to join FC Platinum to opt for Dynamos, who did not pay a cent for his services, because he felt his football interests would be better served at the Glamour Boys.

Then, he was just a promising teenager coming from Kiglon and carrying big dreams.

He had a chance to join FC Platinum, who were offering him a little fortune for a signing-on fee, but he felt DeMbare gave him the big stage to showcase his talent and money could follow later if he made a huge impression.

"I believe opting to join Dynamos in 2011, instead of FC Platinum who had made an offer of over US$30 000, is one the reasons I am where I am today," Denver told The Herald.

"I don't think if I had made that move (to FC Platinum) I could have achieved all I have achieved to date.

"I was young and couldn't understand it when my manager said FC Platinum were offering this much but you are going to sign for Dynamos who have not given us any signing-on fees," said Denver.

"We work with agents and as players we don't know much about transfers and l understood when he explained why I should join Dynamos.

"I agreed, I was coming from Kiglon where we would go for months without even pocketing a US$10 note so I was used to playing football and taking nothing home."

Something big, he feels, also helped him when he failed his initial trials at Bidvest Wits.

"Coming back home after I had gone for trials at Wits last year, and had not made the grade was really a blessing in disguise as I returned, worked on my weaknesses, worked extra hard and became the Soccer Star of the Year," said Denver.

"I did not lose heart, I had gone for trials once yet other players had gone several times and failed and I knew my time would come.

"God had a plan and maybe it was all planned that I would move to South Africa this year when I am a better player than I was last year." The 2012 Soccer Star of the Year, who has moved from Dynamos to Bidvest Wits in South Africa, was back in town this week to bid farewell to his beloved grandmother, the woman who put a lot into raising him after his mother passed away.

Denver left Harare, just as reports emerged that he had been involved in an altercation with his pregnant girlfriend, and that battered his otherwise clean-cut image.

Now Denver wants to put all that behind him and concentrate on fulfilling his dream to become one of the best footballers to emerge out of Zimbabwe by making a huge mark in South Africa.

Denver regrets that events that ended up with the altercation but wants forgiveness so that he can move on.

"I am human and I can also make mistakes," said Denver.

"That is water under the bridge now and I am focused on my career and my wife Mitchell Mashonganyika."

Denver, who now has secured his work permit and has been issued with an international clearance by Zifa, has been training with his new club since he completed his move a couple of weeks ago.

He is hoping to make his debut against Black Leopards when the Absa Premiership season resumes after the 2013 Nations Cup finals.

He says he is enjoying his training sessions and his fellow countrymen, Tinashe Nengomasha and Thomas Sweswe, have helped him to settle at the modest but ambitious club.

Talking to the midfielder, after an interview with his grandmother Christina Kawinga at her Lusaka home in Highfield, you get a feeling that football can be a beautiful tale at times.

Gogo Kawinga gave birth to 13 children, including Denver's mother Petunia, who passed on in 2000, but is now left with only three children and a trail of grandchildren to look after. Among those grandchildren, are Denver and CAPS United striker Clive Kawinga. Gogo Kawinga says she now suffers from high-blood pressure, triggered by the pain of losing one child after another, and has to fend for all the grandchildren left behind.

But a bolt of light emerged from all that and Gogo Kawinga is now enjoying the benefits of having a grandchild who is a professional football player, and a very talented one, for good measure.

"I am happy that the boy has made it and he is now looking after me very well," said Gogo Kawinga.

"Going to Mutasa Primary, when he was given a soccer award whilst in Grade Seven, I never knew it would come to this.

"I just wish his mother was alive to enjoy this, she died leaving her only child Denver.

"I told Denver this morning that in South Africa, where he would be based, he should behave and show discipline like a child who was raised by a grandmother."

The lanky midfielder said the journey had been rough and remembers being bullied when he arrived at Dynamos and wondering whether he would make it at such a big club.

"When I joined Dynamos I could just not believe it and the first game was a match against CAPS United in the Bob '87 Super Cup and I scored," said Denver.

"The second match was another big match against Highlanders in the Hexagon tournament and again I scored together with Archieford Gutu and people said we had a good combination. "So these matches, before the season had started, really helped me to settle otherwise the thought of playing for Dynamos was just scary.

"By the time the season started I was settled and I knew I could play at a big club like Dynamos." The midfielder, who was also happy that his teammates, Simba Sithole and Rodreck Mutuma, had quickly followed him to South Africa and would be applying their "Zora Butter" in the Super Diski, feels new stars will emerge at DeMbare to take the club to another level.

"I played for Dynamos for two years. It is a big club. I believe I worked hard for the team. I am happy for my teammates," said Denver.

"It is an achievement for the club and us, especially for Simba. He didn't play at Sundowns and it is painful because at our age we just want to play football.

"The players that will replace us should work extra hard, remain humble and disciplined and they would be household names."

During training at Bidvest Wits, Denver is being used behind the strikers and on the right side of midfield and will have to compete for places with players such as Burundi international Faty Papy.

"I think I will fit into the team, I have impressed at training and I have gotten used to their style of play and as a foreigner, you have to work extra hard.

"The training facilities are obviously different from what we have here and we work with coaches from different countries," said Denver. And his pledge to Gogo Kawinga as he undertakes this journey is; "now it is my turn to look after you". "We grew up with Gogo and Sekuru who is now late. It is now my time to look after them and all the other siblings," said Denver.

"It feels great saying goodbye to your family and being blessed by prayer.

"I looked up to my elder brother Clive as his career took shape before mine. But he is happy for me and I wish him well to be more serious this season and score a lot of goals.

"I want him to score 20 goals and also get a contract outside the country."

His younger cousin, Tawanda Mushaninga, is already inspired by Denver and Clive and is doing well for his school team at Mutasa Primary.

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