23 February 2014

Zimbabwe: The Other Side of Football Star Labani Kandi

SOCCER coach, labour activist, musician, scriptwriter and actor, all personify ex Dynamos and Eiffel Flats goalkeeper Labani Kandi.

Now 62, but with an appearance that defies his age, Kandi's face brightens when he talks about the disciplines that make up his personality.

"I was born to entertain people -- in fact, human beings are born artists," Kandi says with a chuckle.

"This belief helps me a lot, even when I am coaching the youngsters. Youngsters understand more if things are said in a light and jocular way. Humour knows no rules, but it has limits."

While his soccer career, to a certain extent, cannot be described as illustrious, his adventure in the arts sector that saw him starring in a number of television dramas that include Gringo Mari Iripi? where he acted as Ganyaupfu, put him in the limelight.

He has also been featured in other productions such as the late Israel Gumunyu's television series Inheritance Court where he appeared as the defendant, as well as Kusaziva Idongo Rakatamwa, which he wrote.

"I ventured into acting in 1986 after I retired from playing football in 1983. I enjoy acting as much as I enjoy football," said the CAF Level C coaching certificate holder.

Kandi also revealed his love for music and upon Standardsport's visit to his home, two guitars lay on his sofas while playing on the television was the documentary Goalkeeper Training Methods.

"Today I am a bit busy. I am waiting for my other band members to arrive so that we can start rehearsals for weekend shows. In the afternoon I am going to train kids in Glen Norah," said the leader of the five-member musical ensemble, named Total Package.

Kandi, who is the lead vocalist and the lead guitarist, said his band, which is more into traditional music, usually plays at Jazz 105 in the capital and also gets hired to perform at private functions.

"I have always been interested in music and when I was still a student at Highfield Secondary School, I met Robert Mantenga and we formed a band which we called Dead Civilisation. We were more into heavy rock music. The band is still going strong and is now based in Victoria Falls," he said.

The Murehwa-born star started his soccer career at Highfield Youth Club in 1965 and among his team-mates was the late Oliver Kateya.

In the nascent days of his career, Kandi played as a striker, but with the influence of his brother Elisha, he later took to goalkeeping.

"I used to play as a striker and even when I retired, I played as a striker in the Dynamos reserve team that had the likes of Clayton Munemo, Biggie Zuze, Henry Chari and Angirayi Chapo," he said.

Way back in 1969, through the invitation of the first Dynamos goalkeeper Josiah Akende, Kandi joined Dynamos juniors. His stay at the club was however short- lived as his brother, who was also a junior football coach, wanted him to play for his team, Highfield Youth Club.

"I could not stay at Dynamos because of my brother's influence. He wanted me to play for his team. It was after he relocated to Kariba that I joined Dynamos in 1974," he said.

The following year Kandi said, he shrugged off the challenge by Charles Gwatidzo and Joseph Mafunga to break into the first team where he immediately made an impact and was voted the club's Player of the Year after helping the team win the championship.

"I enjoyed my stay at Dynamos but my stay there was really not full-time because I had so much respect for my job as a postal officer at the Post Office. This even affected me at national team level as I would snub call-ups," he said.

"In 1977 my work at the Post Office took me to Kadoma as a relief staffer and there I joined Eiffel Flats Football Club. The team had good players such as John Revai, Martin Kalamba, Joseph Zulu, Raphael Phiri and Victor Mapanda and we won the BAT Trophy that year."

Kandi returned to Dynamos in 1978 and helped the team win that year's championship and the Chibuku Trophy before he retired in 1983 at the age of 31.

He went on to coach lower Division sides Harare Sheraton and ZRP Thomlison where he groomed players such as Claudius Zviripayi and Bonface Kabure.

KANDI'S SOFT HEART FOR PLAYERS

Labani Kandi may have ventured into many activities but he maintains that closest to his heart is the welfare of footballers. It is because of this that he, Paul Gundani and Mandinda Ndlovu pioneered the formation of Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ).

"I saw how soccer players were being ill-treated by administrators and decided that we should speak with one voice. It is not only in Zimbabwe that players are ill-treated, but the world over. I am no longer involved with FUZ, but am happy that our efforts bore fruits," he said.

He fired a salvo at local footballers for their lack of passion.

"Money is the root of all evil and I do not know why churches ask for it," he said. "Nowadays players are more interested in money than playing for passion as was the case during our time. Standards have gone down very much."

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