HARARE football giants CAPS United yesterday said Steve "The Dude" Kwashi's name will forever be emblazoned in the annals of the club's history as they reflected on the big role he played during one of the club's finest hours in 1996.
Kwashi, who died in Harare yesterday at the age of 67, led the Green Machine to their first league title in post-Independence era with his 1996 all-conquering squad.
Apart from ending a 17-year-old league drought, the star-studded CAPS United side also bagged a number of silverware including the Charity Shield, BP Cup and the Independence Trophy.
CAPS United president, Farai Jere, yesterday said the late coach broke the ice for Makepekepe, who went on to win three more titles in 2004, 2005 and 2016. "Steve Kwashi will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of the CAPS United family," said Jere.
"He was the first coach to lead us to a league championship, after Independence, in 1996 when he led a steamrolling CAPS United side, whose attacking and beautiful football was way ahead of that time.
"They say it's never easy to manage a team of stars but Kwashi found a way to do it with authority and came up with a very efficient Green Machine which went beyond all the others in the Independence era.
"After years of living in the shadows of our great rivals Dynamos, who were winning league title after league title, while we were the Cup-winning specialists, now we could stand in the same winners' enclosure as league champions and it was a very proud moment for everyone connected with CAPS United.
"For some of us, who came to become the team leaders and won the league championship in 2004 and 2005 and 2016, there is no secret that we built that success story on the strong foundation laid by Bla Steve. He will always be a CAPS United hero," said Jere.
The 1996-championship winning captain Silver "Bhonzo" Chigwenje said Kwashi was a great motivator. Chigwenje, who is currently based in Karoi, was Makepekepe skipper between 1992 and 1999.
"I think we were just an average team when Kwashi arrived. But he motivated us to become champions. He is someone who loved winning trophies, he always pushed us to do our best.
"He also brought in a number of players that added value to the team, the likes of Alois Bunjira, Frank Nyamukuta, Stewart Murisa and Lloyd Chitembwe. He also brought in younger players like Blessing Makunike, Shingirai Alron and Artwell Mabhiza.
"Winning the title in 1996 was a great achievement for us because this is something that had eluded the club for 17 years," said Chigwenje.
Former CAPS United winger, Bunjira, who was among the new players recruited by Makepekepe for their grand mission in 1996, said Kwashi played a big role in his career.
"He played a big role in my football career. He is the one who convinced me to join CAPS United. We would meet often at his work place, at In-Sport, in town until, I made a decision that CAPS United was the right team to join.
"I believe I played my best football at CAPS United. He believed so much in my talent and he trusted me so much that I played my first game, a cup final for that matter, without having trained with the rest of the team. I arrived from Poland in the morning and in the afternoon I was in the team for the Charity Shield against Blackpool.
"He is the only coach who continuously told me that I was good at what I was doing and at every team talk he would ask me to go out there and do my thing. He would say just go there, dribble them and score goals and I didn't disappoint," said Bunjira.
Former goalkeeper Brenna Msiska, who briefly worked as player/coach before Kwashi's arrival at Makepekepe in 1995, said the success was built on understanding from the bottom to the top echelons.
"We were almost like a family," said.
"He helped me to establish myself in the coaching field. When he came to CAPS United in 1995 I was doubling as player/coach, along with the late Anthony Kambani.
"I think we were there three to four games and when he eventually took over, we continued working under him. That is how I cut my teeth into coaching.
"It's sad he was robbed of his career by that accident. He could have easily become something even bigger than he achieved.
"I am sure it was difficult for him the last 20 years. But we thank God for preserving his life then and to give him more years that we had with him," said Msiska.
Kwashi also had a stint with the Zimbabwe Under-17 side which qualified for the Africa Youth Cup finals staged in Guinea in 1999. His team had the likes of Shingi Kawondera, Tendayi Tanyanyiwa, Tinashe Nengomasha, David Sengu, Silent Katumba and Tendai Mwarura. ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, yesterday said the nation was robbed of excellent football brains.
"Kwashi was a fine winger during his playing days. His ability to identify and nurture talent saw many players pass through his hands at CAPS United and Black Aces. We shall forever cherish the legacy of the indelible mark that he left on local football. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this difficult moment of bereavement. Their loss is also our loss, and it is a huge loss to Zimbabwean football," said Gwesela.
Kwashi also had coaching stints with Air Zim Jets and helped Black Aces gain promotion in 1991. He was part of the bench when Shaisa Mufaro won their maiden Super League title the following year.
Former Aces player, Magarika "Magga" Dzvairo, said Kwashi made him and his brother Shadreck settle in topflight football.
"He was a father figure to me and my brother Wagga (Shadreck). He used to come to our house unexpectedly only to find him having a long chat with my father, drinking beer. Thank you for making us play football," said Dzvairo, who is now based in the UK.