IT’S 12:54 in the afternoon yesterday, Mbare is back to life and, on a Friday like this, no one cares about the scorching summer heat.
After all, everyone, in the capital’s oldest high density neighbourhood, wants to cover lost ground, following the recent relaxation of the lockdown measures.
Along Fourth Avenue, in the suburb’s National section, a group of barefoot, and shirtless boys, are playing a small-sided football game, using ball made of plastic.
They are doing so to enjoy themselves but they aren’t short of spectators.
Directly opposite their adopted pitch is House Number 26.
The only occupants of that house are a 96-year-old granny and her 72-year-old daughter.
They are paying attention to the small-sided game, outside their gate, while seated on a red-floor verandah.
It’s not something strange for the two.
They started doing that back in the ’60s.
The granny, Francisca Shaya-Kashukware, is mother of Zimbabwe football legend, George “Mastermind” Shaya, while her 72-year-old daughter, Maude, is the former DeMbare kingpin’s sister.
“George was never a mischievous boy while growing up. He used to like football a lot. He would spend all day, playing plastic balls, with his friends, on that same road,” said Francisca.
“She suffers from dementia so she can’t readily recall every bit now,” she said.
As this reporter, accompanied by Warriors fan, Zivanai Muwashu, took our seats, Gogo Shaya is clearly not happy having the media at her doorstep.
“You might be carrying bad news about her son (George),” said Maude.
Apparently George, who stays with his wife Agnes at their Glen Norah house, hasn’t visited Gogo in the last three months.
It’s understandable, though, for there has been a national lockdown, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Gogo wants to always see him.
She has lost three of her 11 children — Oliver, Damasco and Sylvester.
But, how did she raise George to become a superstar, he was back in his heydays, in the ’60s and ’70s.
“Once we saw that he was keen on pursuing football, we gathered as a family and resolved to support him in every way possible.
“Like every kid in the street, George grew up playing football in the streets.
“His prowess was only unearthed when he enrolled at St Paul’s Musami.
“His coach there always said your son was an extraordinary footballer. That gave us an extra urge to support him.”
The Mastermind would then sign for a club in Bulawayo.
Gogo can’t remember the name, and the year, but Maude vividly recalls how her brother flatly turned down an offer to play in Mozambique.
If Shaya had accepted the invite, from his late uncle, Pamala Kashukware (Gogo’s brother), probably he could have ended up playing in the Portuguese league, like Freddie Mkwesha.
By the way, Gogo traces her roots in Mozambique, so was her husband, who died back in 1989.
“Uncle Pamala was a footballer who later became an administrator. He invited George to play for a certain team in Mozambique but George didn’t want to leave Zimbabwe.
That was the time Shaya joined Dynamos.
He would mesmerise defences, and help the Glamour Boys win several accolades.
Shaya remains the only player to have won the Soccer Star of the Year gong, five times, since its introduction in 1969.
When he was voted the winner for the first time, in ’69, Shaya committed every cent to have the family house in Mbare extended.
“Yes, he is the one who said ‘mother, I want to take all the money that I have won towards the extension of this house.’
“He said you never know what tomorrow will bring, let us have enough space to live.
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“He continued to contribute towards the family’s upkeep, even when he had grown to have his own.
“It’s unfortunate he played football when the industry wasn’t as lucrative as it is today.”
On her secrete to long life, Gogo Shaya said she always lived an active life.
“I don’t own any land in the village but my family, as big as it, never really missed rural life.
“Most areas around Mbare, including Sunningdale, were vacant and I was one of the prominent farmers around.
“I would grow maize, sweet potatoes, you name them. I have been active and I continue to have a healthy diet.
“I also want to thank God, for the blessing of life.
“I am a Roman Catholic and nowadays I can no longer walk to church but the congregants, and leaders, come here and make it a point that I also do not miss my weekly sacraments.”
Oddly, though, only George appeared to be interested in football.
The others decided to be motor mechanics.