Zimbabwe: The Guava Smile We're All Going to Miss

3 December 2020

Special Correspondent

HE always wore that flashy smile for everyone -- on and off the pitch.

And, even during his illness before he passed away at the age of 46 on Tuesday, former Black Rhinos midfielder, Gift "Guava" Kamuriwo, would still manage a flicker of that trademark smile which earned him his nickname.

It is also ironic that the football star, who wore the world-famous No. 10 jersey for the army team during his illustrious career there, died just a few days after his all-time hero.

The late Argentine legend Diego Maradona, who also wore that No 10 for Argentina and the various clubs he played for, was his inspiration.

But, it was that affectionate smile that always stole the show, during play, and after-match interviews.

The players, officials, and fans, who were associated with him during his journey from humble beginnings at lower division side LSM Alaska, passing through Mhangura, Air Zimbabwe Jets, Dynamos, and Chauya Chipembere, will always mention that wide and captivating smile.

It was after a Rhinos training session, back in 2000, when I remarked to him that his smile was as bright as a guava fruit.

And, yes, you guessed it, he burst into laughter.

That nickname would stick to him during his entire career.

On the pitch, Kamuriwo was a brilliant attacking midfielder, who possessed an uncanny and gliding repertoire, which was underlined by an endless knack of scoring some sublime goals.

Two former Warriors captains, who also wore the No. 10 jersey for club and country -- Stanford "Stix" Mutizwa and Moses "Bambo" Chunga -- both paid glowing tributes to Kamuriwo.

"He made football look so easy when he was in possession and was amazingly calm, in front of goal, and also in support of the front-runners.

"He used to split defences, with some intricate passing, and would take it upon himself to rescue the team by engineering, and scoring, some fantastic goals.

"I think he would have been successful as a coach, but unfortunately, that dream has been cut short," said Mutizwa.

Chunga said Guava had an insatiable hunger for success that resulted in him rising from the doldrums at Alaska and eventually playing for giants like Rhinos and Dynamos.

"When you play alongside a kind of player like him, it's so delightful when your aim is to attack because he will immediately know where to run forward into space to receive your pass and send you the return pass," said Bambo.

Guava's finest season was in 2002, when he helped Black Rhinos to finish as Premier League runners-up to Highlanders, in a tightly-contested race.

He was also voted as the first runner-up to Bosso's defence stalwart, Dazzy Kapenya, in the Soccer Star of the Year race at the end of that season.

By scoring 16 goals, in the same year, not only did Guava finish as the country's top scorer, but carved a niche for himself in the top-flight's local history books.

He became the highest-scoring attacking midfielder since the late Kuda Muchemeyi of Dynamos who hit the net 12 times in 1986.

The lanky player also starred for Chauya Chipembere in the CAF African Champions League matches against Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca, where they were eventually knocked out 2-4 on aggregate.

Kamuriwo's form also impressed then Warriors coach, Sunday "Mhofu" Chidzambwa, who called him into the senior national side the following season.

Unfortunately, a career-ending knee injury in 2004, halted his sublime progress and he hung up his boots and would venture into coaching, a few years later.

He was assistant coach, at various sides in the army's technical set-ups, including his beloved Chauya Chipembere.

One thing, though, that I am certain of is -- if there is a football pitch up there, "Guava's" smile will definitely light it up for a friend, or foe, during and after play.

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