28 October 2018

Zimbabwe: Charamba - Ngezi Platinum's Unheralded Speed Merchant

FIVE years ago, Ngezi Platinum Stars' speed devil Michael Charamba, then in secondary school, was helping Kwekwe-based Amaveni High School to a bronze medal in the 4×100 metres relay at the national schools athletics championships at the National Sports Stadium.

Little did he know that he would soon be a frequent visitor to the same venue, but this time as a professional footballer.

Charamba has been one of the best performers for the Mhondoro-Ngezi-based side and would easily be in contention for the Soccer Star of the Year gong barring injuries that blighted his otherwise impressive first full season.

And yet he still stands a good chance to make it on the soccer stars' calendar.

"I used to be a very good athlete back in school especially in short distances like 100m, 200m and 400m. I was known at school more because of running and I won a lot of accolades. The biggest of them coming in 2003 when our 4x100m relay school team won bronze in the national finals at the National Sports Stadium," the former Amaveni High School athlete told The Sports Hub.

The 22-year-old was instrumental in Ngezi's explosive start to the season deployed successfully as an impact player by former coach Tonderai Ndiraya.

His figures currently read one goal and a massive 16 assists, which, however, will not be enough to win the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title for Ngezi.

But clearly if Charamba had not been a footballer he would have made it as a track and field athlete.

The City of Kwekwe has produced many top players in the top-flight league over the years through teams such as Lancashire Steel, Tongogara, Kwekwe City, Chrome Stars and Ziscosteel.

But without Premiership football in Kwekwe in almost a decade, a lot of talent in the mining town has gone to waste, which is why Charamba regards his rise to fame in football as a miracle.

"For me, to be here is a miracle and I want to thank first and foremost the Almighty for this opportunity to be playing at this level and being recognised. I never went to any academy. I played for Amaveni High School until 2014 when I finished school and joined Ngezi Platinum in Division One the following year and helped them gain promotion.

"Then in 2016 I was loaned to Ivan Hoe in the Zifa Central Region Division One and came back to the team last year, but was a fringe player for the better part of the season," Charamba revealed.

The only child in his family, Charamba started playing football in the streets like many other kids and his pace plus a little bit of natural dexterity, made him the king of street football in the dusty streets of Amaveni.

"I just loved football from when I was a small boy and playing the plastic ball in the ghetto. My parents were a great motivation for me when I started playing in school and sometimes they would come with a camera to take pictures and record videos, which inspired me a lot. Then God opened doors for me to play in the league. I always think that if I could rise from playing in the streets in Amaveni to playing in the national league, then I can go far, so I am working hard so that I can achieve great things as a footballer," he said.

Charamba's rise to fame has been so rapid such that in a short space of time he has attracted the attention of the national team coaches receiving a call-up in the Independence Day match against Botswana in April although he did not play.

In June, Charamba along with two other players from Ngezi were invited for trials at Bidvest Wits in South Africa but unfortunately failed to make the grade.

He remains ambitious.

"For me, the dream is to play in Europe and to also play for the national team and I know by the grace of God I will achieve it," he said.

"This year is only my second playing in the league (and) I have learned a lot. I gave myself the target of making the most assists in the league and help my team win the league. I am happy with what I have managed to achieve so far. I want to get better and better as a player and I believe that I have improved a lot although I can feel there is still room to improve. I will remain disciplined and continue to work hard to improve in every aspect of my game."

He added: "Injury affected me a lot this season. When I had the injury I was at the top of my game and it took about a month if not more to recover, so I think it affected my form and progress as a player a lot."

Charamba pulled a muscle towards the mid-season break and this coincided with Ngezi Platinum's loss of form and it was at that time that they lost the initiative in the league race.

On a particular day, in a league match against Yadah, Charamba managed to catch the eye of football legend Moses Chunga.

Receiving the ball on the far right side, Charamba produced a brilliant piece of skill to beat two defenders before sending in a cross, which was then dealt with by the opposition.

Sitting in the VIP section, Chunga remarked that he had not seen such a piece of skill since his playing time and predicted that the player would go far.

A devout Christian with Harvest World Ministries International, Charamba finds it difficult not to talk about God when he discusses his football career. In a fraternity dominated by incidences of juju and a lot of superstitious beliefs, Charamba, says he is no affected by such things.

"Being a Christian and a footballer makes things really easy because you will be covered 100% by the blood of Jesus. I believe God is the provider in all things so I don't fear anything, but I always have confidence," he said.

While he is not expecting to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year, Charamba hopes to be voted as one of the stars of the current season as the curtain comes down.

"I don't know if I have done enough this season, but it will be a great achievement if I can be chosen as one of the soccer stars at the end of the season. It's every player's dream to make it on the soccer stars calendar, but I think I have plenty of time to achieve all those things," he said.

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