Moffat Mungazi Sports Correspondent
AFTER benefiting from a career-defining breakthrough into the first team of a Premiership side as a teenager, Sakubva-bred and former forward, Clemence “Skude” Mukudu is keen to return the favour by promoting juniors through raising their football pedestals.
The ex-soccer star made his elite league debut with the now defunct Sporting Lions as a fresh-faced 17-year-old shortly after completing his Ordinary Level studies at Mutare Boys’ High in 2002.
As a budding youthful footballer at the Wild Ones, he shared the locker room with some of the game’s greats like former Warriors gaffer, Kallisto Pasuwa, ex-Dynamos trainer, Lloyd “Samaita” Mutasa and retired CAPS United midfield genius, Joe “Kode” Mugabe.
The latter two would later coach Skude at disbanded Mutare-based side Highway as they earned promotion into the Premiership in 2008. Away from the pitch, he got to rub shoulders with Chimurenga music icon, Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo who was one of the club directors alongside Stan Kudenga and Xavier Edziwa.
To give back to the game which gave him a name, Mukudu has pledged to play a hand-holding role to budding players as they take toddler’s steps along the path to turning professional.
“My career has been such an enjoyable ride and I am grateful for the opportunities it has opened up for me and places it took me to. When I started off as a rookie at the top level of the local game, I was surrounded by some big names like Samaita (Lloyd Mutasa), Kode (Joe Mugabe), (Kallisto) Pasuwa, Dazzy Kapenya, Thomas Sweswe, Charles “Chief” Chilufya, Blessing Gumiso, and the late Shingirai “Madhimoni”Alron among others.
“As teammates, they all influenced me greatly and shaped my early career. Kode and Samaita were so inspirational and encouraged me to take my chance. I remember I had just sat for my Form Four final examinations when I joined Sporting Lions and this emboldened my spirit and attitude towards the game. Their leadership gave me direction as my career was just taking off. Their advice was invaluable. Having immensely benefited from such counsel, it is only befitting that I plough the experience I gained over the years into the game for the benefit of young players. I am eager to give a hand to football by moulding its future stars from Manicaland,” said Mukudu in an interview earlier this week.
The former Mwana Africa player is already involved with training budding footballers.
He is the coach of Manica Diamonds Juniors who compete in the Zifa Eastern Region Division 2A.
He shares the role with childhood buddy and ex-teammate, Hibron “Adhala Chommiey” Makukutu.
For Skude, the first cut at Sporting Lions was the deepest and their structures back then continue to inspire him to this day. The club had set up a feeder team — Sporting Cubs — participating in Division Two, which fostered the development of footballers like Danger Fourpence, Sebio Manuere, Isaac Madziva, Felix Kuswatuka, and Cabby Kamhapa.
It served as a conveyor belt which produced and promoted bright prospects to the senior team.
“Fledgling talent has to be properly nurtured at a tender age until it blossoms into full-fledged professionals. They have to enjoy participating in the game first before they can get to compete. Catching them young is essential and they say ‘it is better to build children than repair broken men’. A vibrant junior policy is, therefore, the cornerstone on which we can build successful future generations. As long as I am around and still involved in the game, I will play my bit part in contributing to this cause,” he explained.
Mukudu also called on parents and guardians to fully back youngsters to take up the sport seriously as well as providing both moral and material support like buying them training equipment.
For good measure, he is practising what he preaches as he has enrolled his nine-year-old son Trafford at Manicaland Juniors of Excellence Soccer Academy (Majesa).
He added: “Parents need to be involved and take interest in their kids’ activities by supporting them in whatever way they can. They can also attend matches and watch their children play. The encouraging efforts of La Sakubva, Majesa and other academies as well as the Mai Hondo and Willard Katsande tournaments, which aim to identify emerging talent deserve special mention.
“Remember the legendary Peter Ndlovu was first discovered at the Copa Coca Cola competition before bursting into the limelight and the rest is history. The likes of Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Marvellous Nakamba also took a similar path.”
To ensure an infinite supply of future stars, Mukudu urged authorities and stakeholders to promote and tap into grassroots talent.
“It is important to invest in sound junior football structures because they incubate talent. Without these, the prospects of the game will be bleak. Such a system will help youngsters realise and fulfil their full potential in order to live their soccer dreams. We cannot afford to have raw talent waste away and watch it go down the drain.
“Unity of purpose is needed so as to pull in the same direction. The dilapidated sporting facilities in the city are a cause for concern and have to be refurbished. During our days, the likes of Sports Oval, Chisamba, Nyausunzi and Dangamvura grounds used to be well maintained and turned out to be breeding grounds for tomorrow’s big names,” said the widely travelled former footballer.
Mukudu underscored the need for youngsters to stay disciplined.
“Talent alone is not enough and without discipline footballers may not go far. They have to guard against getting distracted and disrupting their progress. Substance abuse and teenage delinquency has inhibited some juniors’ development. Aspiring players should keep their feet on the ground even after the promise of early success. They can always borrow a leaf from Warriors captain, Knowledge Musona who has been very exemplary and a top performer for a prolonged period owing to his steadfastness,” Mukudu said.