The National Railways of Zimbabwe had produced great players over the years. Titus Zi Majola, Nhamo Shambira, Abraham Madondo, Mayor Eric, Jimmy Phiri, Dave Sibanda, Mashambe, the list is endless. Roy Barreto worked for the Railways too. These guys played interdepartmental football at Raylton Recreational Clu grounds during lunch times, Monday to Friday. It was no joke. Before the advent of this array of talent NRZ had Railstars FC which was more popular in Sizinda and Mashobane.
In 1995, the NRZ was preparing to celebrate the Centenery of their existance. The General Manager, Alvord Mabena announced that they were going to form a team to perform in a league. Forming a team would help forster family ties and bring back memoties of old. A noble idea indeed. I was ownered together with Ernest Skhalo Mpala, the father to Mighty Warriors Queen, Precious Mpala, to spearhead a massive task of putting the team together and give the recommendations to the interim committee. Gibson Makhanda and Max Shaluza Tshuma came in to add their invaluable experience.
With the talented youngsters that were identified like Ignatious Msindo, Lovemore and Talkmore Zhuwawo, Kanjele Mbewe and Dumisani Longwe, as well as the renowned war horses like Abraham Madondo, Mayor Eric and Jimmy Phiri, we were convinced first division was suitable for the material we had. We were limited to Railway employees or their dependents.
The journey into the unknown took us to Jena Mines, Makusha, Triangle and beyond. There memorable times; our very first game against AmaZulu at Luveve Stadium, was so hyped and so many bets were thrown in. The game lived to its billing but we were no match to the eventual champions that year.
Kango were the arch-rivals. This made it a true derby when we played them since we shared the training ground and Railstars netball girls were at stake for the boys. At Luveve stadium, again, blood literally flowed as tackles flew. Boy Maxmillion Ndlovu got the brunt of it all. At our home ground, Raylton Recreation Club, betting syndicates came in their hordes in our fixtures against Charles Mhlauri’s Phinda Mzala. By the time Railstars FC had scored 4 goals, the fracas of a free for all brawl was uncontrolable as guns and knives were brandished. No shots were fired, thank God. Eventually, that year, we were relegated to the second division.
The Railway management was clever not to throw in the towel by purchasing yet another first Division franchise. In the year end report that I made, outlined our short comings and rectifications. The team was no longer run by Welfare Department. Ntando Gumede was Chairman and Abraham Madondo Team Manager.
This time we had Barry Daka and Shaluza Max Tshuma. Here, you can say team work wins the day for you. I sat with BBza, explaining him the road ahead, supported by all game statistics, ground and weather conditions of places we have to travel.
We then had services of non-Railway employees, Master Masiku, Kelvin Mtshawa Maseko, Goodson Gama, Timile Ncube, Costa Chiimba (RIP), Anderson Phiri, Chewe Mulenga, Charles Chilufya, Lucky Siziba, Thamsanqa Kabila Thambo (RIP) and a lot of other fine players. Every team threw kitchen sinks at us, with Ziscosteel FC the main culprits as title challengers. We beat them 4-0 at Redcliff. The next fixtures they bussed the whole town to ZESA Munyathi hoping for the later to derails Sporo. It was another 4-0 for us. The Division One title was sealed.
By far the National Railways of Zimbabwe Centenery Challenge at Barbourfields Stadium was the most memorable moment with Njanji. This was a family outing four team challenge tournament in the mould of the the South African pre-season, IWISA tournament. Highlanders beat the blue lights out of Zimbabwe Saints while we humiliated high flying AmaZulu. The final game, Bosso vs Railstars, was top drawer stuff. After extra time, penalties had to decide the winners. Railstars prevailed on that wonderful day. The atmosphere was incredible.
Then finally, winning the Championship, was an icing on the cake. Later in the weeks that followed, Railstars FC visited Hwange for the Wankie Centenery Cup. We won the trophy. What a welcome to the Premier League. We could have even klobbered Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.
As we were enjoying the honeymoon, I was promoted to be Team Manager. Actually, it was a demotion. I had to do both coaching and administartion work. At the realisation that coaching was secondary as the Manager/Assistant Coach, I resigned. Initially from the role of being Manager, but there wasn’t going to be either/or. Even Barry Daka knew the team was being sacrifised.
I was in the side lines until Barry lost his coaching job and I came me in as a stop gap. My first assignment was to play the Mafia run Blackpool FC in an incredulous game at Rufaro. Steve Vickers was also incensed, coming to me for a comment and I just asked him if that day light robbery needed a comment from anybody. Blackpool converted two penalties in the 100th minute of the game to draw 2-2.
Ebson Sugar Muguyo came in as Head coach and we worked well together. As I was preparing to go to Brazil, ZBC-TV reported on the story, doing the interview at Raylton Recreation Club. I lost my job for permiting news media in company premises. Since then, Railstars FC have yoyo’ed to and from the Premier League. As I write, I have no clue whether the team still exists.