SAKUBVA-BRED star goalkeeper Washington Arubi keeps getting better with age like fine wine.
This follows a glorious season the 35-year-old shot-stopper enjoyed with his club, TshakhumaTshaMadzivhandila in the South African DStv Premiership after championing their run to a podium finish in the knockout tournaments well as surviving relegation.
For his sterling exploits between the sticks in the competition, Zimbabwe’s 2011 soccer star of the year winner was duly rewarded with the Nedbank Cup player of the tournament accolade.
The award comes with R150 000 in prize money. To prove his puncture-proof worth, Arubi kept four clean sheets in the five matches his club played in the tourney. His save in the penalty shootout eliminated defending champions, Mamelodi Sundowns at the semi-finals hurdle.
Another shutout in the final against Chippa United propelled TTM to gold as they scooped their first ever major silverware.
Helping his team duck demotion in only their maiden season in the top-tier division will also come as some form of honour for the ex-Warriors number one who also wore the armband as one of the club captains.
His inspirational presence for the Limpopo-based side saw him keep 10 clean sheets, the fourth best in the campaign, in 27 league starts.
Another impenetrable defence against giants, Orlando Pirates in the last game effectively ensured the newboys’ safety.
TTM debuted in the Premiership at the start of the just-ended campaign after acquiring Bidvest Wits’ franchise.
Reflecting on the campaign, the former Dynamos and Highlanders gaolie was modest about their achievements.
“Credit goes to God for the chance and strength he gave me and the team to run this marathon and complete it successfully.
“The journey was both challenging and exciting because we were just starting out on a new terrain, but managed to navigate it well. We are delighted to have made it to the end and we derive pride in possessing something to show for our efforts,” he said.
As one of the senior players in the dressing room, the debutants also leveraged their campaign on his experience.
Said Arubi of his influence: “At any given opportunity, I tried using my leadership skills and qualities to motivate my colleagues when the chips were down. As rookies, it was difficult, but we remained determined and kept fighting until the last day. It eventually paid off and today here we are, with a cup and our Premiership status preserved.”
The sour tussle of battling to avoid the chop for the greater part of the season was sweetened by their trophy triumph, he reckons.
“While surviving relegation guarantees us another go in the league next season, clinching the Nedbank Cup presents us with an occasion to compete on the continent in the CAF Confederation Cup. It is also good that we managed to avoid the play-offs dogfight. This comes as very good returns for both the club and the players,” the gifted goal minder said.
He expressed confidence that the rookies can hold their own in Africa as they shift focus to conquering the continent.
Arubi continues to perform well at the highest level, defying his age. He has also managed to stay injury-free.
“God’s favour, practice, determination, hard work and discipline have taken me this far and ensured the longevity of my career. Adaption and the values of teamwork have also carried the day for me,” said the ex-La Sakubva juniors player.
Although Arubi’s one-year contract with the club is set to run out at the end of this month, he is likely to be rewarded with a new and improved deal on the strength of his heroics in goals.
He will also be not short of any suitors interested in his services. His strong showing deservedly earned him the plaudits of rival coaches like Sundowns’co-coach, Manqoba Mngqithi and fellow players in equal measure.
After declaring to this newspaper late last year that he was out to make history with Tshakhuma TshaMadzivhandila by helping establish them as a competitive force challenging for honours, the Mutare-born star is certainly pleased with how things panned out this season.
With some sections already calling for his return into the Warriors fold after he illuminated South Africa’s football scene, the seasoned footballer reiterated his commitment to the national team cause.
“It would be an absolute honour for me to represent my country again. If the coaches feel I can still add value to the team, then I stand ready for another dance and will give my best shot like I have always done,” said Arubi.