Motor Action centre-back Sam Mutenheri has lifted his status from Dynamos’ reject to arguably one of the best defenders in the Premier Soccer League over the last season, and lifting the prestigious title this past weekend with the Mighty Bulls has only enhanced the defender’s reputation further.
The 30–year old defender’s profile hit rock bottom in last season’s Harare derby at Rufaro stadium when he was literally harassed by then Caps United midfielder Oscar Machapa as the Green Machine cruised 2-0 past perennial rivals Dynamos.
In that forgettable Easter Monday, poor Mutenheri became a shocked spectator and a helpless victim as Machapa turned on the magic, roasting the defender not only once but twice before providing the two crosses that killed off Dynamos.
Unfortunately for the lanky defender, he was fingered as solely responsible for the embarrassment, and in the heat of the moment, and under pressure from a section of some militant supporters, the Dynamos technical team sacked the player.
Mutenheri, who had decided to retire from football was given a lifeline by Motor Action coach Joey Antipas who took the player at the start of the season. The defender featured in almost every game for the champions this season, and performed exceptionally well considering his age.
The former Lancashire Steel left back was a solid performer throughout the season, and along with another reject Themba Ndlovu in the backline, Mutenheri certainly showed he is no flop, but a champion.
Now the million dollar question remain, is it the shrewdness of coach Joey Antipas in transforming the player into a league champion or was it that the player upped his game for fear of looning his job?
NewsDay takes a look at other players that were influential in Motor Action’s success story after being deemed excess baggage by their former paymasters. Perhaps, Antipas will look back and praise his predecessor Lindile Dube for the foundation he laid.
He left Zimbabwe Saints after their relegation in 2006 to join Dynamos but did not have enough game time as the level of competition was high. Dynamos later decided to show him the exit door and he found a new lease of life at Motor Action. He scored 10 goals for the Mighty Bulls, including a brace in his team’s win over Lengthens on the last day of the season to cap a fine season.
He played for Highlanders juniors but had little time to prove himself at the senior level. He later joined Entumbane-based Division Two side Cosmos. Hwange was to be his next port of call, but he left again after failing to command a first team jersey to join Motor Action in 2008.
He was instrumental for the team as they fought relegation in that season and was just tremendous this season. Not only did the player got the championship medal but he is also among the best 11 soccer stars of the year, a true reflection of the player’s abilities.
He was the driving force behind the team, the foundation on which Motor Action built their success on. Ncube played for Zimbabwe Saints in 2006 before moving to Dynamos but never settled at the Harare giants.
He was accused by Dynamos fans of being uncharacteristically slow and the left-footed player was left with no option but to jump ship and joined Motor Action.
With his commanding and towering figure at the heart of the Bulls’ midfield, Ncube was the team’s engine room, orchestrating all the teams’ moves and it is no fluke that he was the captain of a championship winning team.
He played for Hwange for a longtime before being off-loaded and later decided to come to the capital city to join the Mighty Bulls. The gritty pint-sized midfielder made a mockery of his short stature the whole season as he bullied opponents with commanding authority.
The younger brother to former Highlanders great Zenzo Moyo was part of the troops that left Zimbabwe Saints to join Dynamos after the club got relegated. After a season on the fringes, he decided to pack his bags to join the Mighty Bulls. Although he had his moomish moments in the team, evidenced by the number of own goals he scored this season, he formed a rock-solid defensive pair with Mutenheri.
The arrival of upcoming defenders at Hwange pushed Njelele out of favour with the coaches and he had no choice but to move on and decided to join Motor Action. True, these players are rejects but from now on they will always be remembered as players who broke the Mighty Bulls’ decade-long premiership league title drought.