FOR ex-soccer ace, Joseph “Shabba” Takaringofa, it appears like destiny had always fated him to be a sports star.
By his own admission, pastime games had always held a gravitational pull on him and it inevitably swayed him that way.
Academically, he was averagely gifted.
Yet he shone in sport and illuminated the scene.
That the former footballer grew up in an era when recreational facilities were dotted across most areas in suburbs helped pave his sporting path.
In the vicinity of his residence where he was raised were a stadium, community hall, tennis and basketball courts as well as soccer grounds.
At these facilities, Shabba took his toddler’s steps in sport as he honed his skills in different disciplines. It, therefore, came as no surprise that he tried his hand in football, basketball and table tennis.
He, however, made a name for himself using his feet and kicking the ball.
“Where I grew up in the Mazhambe section of Sakubva, sports and recreational facilities like Sakubva Stadium, Sakubva Beit Hall as well as Chisamba and Nyausunzi grounds were a spitting distance away from our house and I would always make time to be actively involved in different ball games,” recalls Takaringofa.
“I developed keen interest in sport at a very young age. Soccer was the most popular among my peers and in primary school at Zamba I took to the game. By the time I enrolled at St Dominic’s High School for my secondary education I was playing basketball.
“There was also a spell during which I played table tennis along the way. This was easy for me because the facilities were there and it fascinated to multi-task in sports.”
As a 12-year-old, Shabba was already turning out for a local Under-18 side.
By the time he started secondary school and availed himself for the U-14s, some dust was raised as people accused him of being an age cheat for it had been a while since he first burst onto the scene.
Sadly, that threatened to extinguish the football flame in him. He then turned to basketball.
“That was so frustrating to have people thinking that I was over-aged for the U-14 team, yet I had only started playing before even reaching my teens. I was paying the price for having flourished too early for my age.
“I was so upset and as I started secondary school at St Dominic’s, I then took up basketball. The game became my new-found love and I stayed away from football for three years. I was enjoying the basketball court more and only returned to the soccer pitch when I was in Form Four,” said Takaringofa.
Blessed with an imposing physical stature, the blossoming playmaker did not find the going tough after trading defence-splitting passes for slam dunks on the court.
His towering height was an asset in the game.
Beside, Shabba adds, basketball had more grandeur than soccer and it was in vogue.
“Going by those days’ current trends, it was more classy to be playing basketball,” he chuckles, adding: “Even the name b’ball had a stylish ring to it and we were proud to be associated with the game. Having grown up in the ghetto, it was more ostentatious to be a basketball player as I was now attending school in town.”
So serious had he become about the game that he joined, City Saints where he played alongside the likes of Vincent Rungano and Kenny Marange who were workmates at National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Shabba represented was part of Manicaland provincial select that participated in a number of competitions as Heroes’ Day tournaments.
So promising was his basketball career that the city’s schools sports powerhouse, Mutare Boys’ High unsuccessfully tried to lure him.
But at what point did he return to football?
“Once a soccer player, always a soccer player,” he quips.
And how did he revert to the game.
“I made a cameo appearance in a football match during the inter-houses competitions at school and impressed. The headmaster, Augustine Muwodzi ordered for my inclusion into the soccer team. Upon my return, I was made the captain,” says Takaringofa.
Then to fulfil his destiny, it took the persuasion of 1993 Castle Cup champions, Tanganda’s greats, Ian Matondo and Lloyd “Samaita” Mutasa to convince him to answer his calling of turning into a professional footballer and fulfil his potential.
This was after the Tanganda senior team had visited Sports Oval Ground in Sakubva’s Old Location section to watch local juniors in action.
Takaringofa was among those who put up a spell-binding show that afternoon.
The decision to heed Matondo and Mutasa’s advice was easy to make for him since this offered him an opportunity to link up with his childhood friend, Nelson Bandura who was already on Tanganda’s books while being an Upper Sixth pupil at Mutare Boys’ High.
Looking back with nostalgia and pride, Shabba says he has no regrets over the path his sporting career meandered through as this all added strings to his bow.