BY HENRY MHARA NGEZI Platinum Stars’ newly-appointed coach Benjani “The Undertaker” Mwaruwari says his arrival at the Mhondoro-Ngezi side could open European doors for the club and its players.
He said that the club has started enjoying the benefits of his association with foreign clubs, claiming that he has already secured a pre-season friendly match with his former French side AJ Auxerre.
The Warriors legend was unveiled as the new coach by the ambitious Mhondoro-Ngezi-based club on Tuesday morning and is set to take the baby steps of his coaching career.
Apart from his cameo role as Warriors assistant coach where he spent a few weeks, he has coached developmental sides at his former clubs Portsmouth in England and AJ Auxerre.
The holder of a UEFA A Licence, the 43-year-old spent 15 successful years abroad playing in South Africa, Switzerland, France and England.
He says he wants to use the connections that he made during that period to open European doors for his players as well as organising exchange programmes between Ngezi and his former clubs.
“If I see a good player here it would be easy for that player to go and get trials abroad. That is one of the advantages of me being here. It will be easy for me to facilitate friendly matches for Ngezi to go and play in Europe with teams that I played for,” Mwaruwari said.
Mwaruwari, it appears, still enjoys cordial relationships with his former clubs. He was last month invited by Manchester City to appear as a guest during their Manchester Derby clash against Manchester United at the Etihad.
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Days later, he was at AJ Auxerre on a one-week attachment, working with the team’s junior teams. He actually received the Ngezi job offer when he was in France.
“For example, in Auxerre I was recently there and I spoke to them that we would like to come and play a pre-season friendly match and they accepted. So already we have a chance to go and play friendly matches against Auxerre.”
Mwaruwari began his career at Lulu Rovers and also played for Highlanders juniors, University of Zimbabwe in the division one and Air Zimbabwe Jets in the premier league in 1999 before moving to South African club Jomo Cosmos in 1999.
After a successful stint at Jomo Cosmos where he was voted 2001 PSL Player of the Season and PSL Players’ Player of the Season, he moved to Europe in 2001 to join Swiss side Grasshopper Club Zürich before moving to AJ Auxerre a year later.
He signed with Premier League club Portsmouth in 2006 after former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger recommended the player to Harry Redknapp.
Mwaruwari then went on to play in England’s topflight for Manchester City, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers before returning to Portsmouth in 2011. The following year, he returned to South Africa with Chippa United and then Bidvest Wits before hanging his boots.
The 43-year-old said he is excited to start his coaching journey in Mashonaland West, a place where he began his playing career in Chegutu.
“I started my footballing career here close to Ngezi, at Chegutu with Lulu Rovers. Now as a coach I’m starting here again, very close to Chegutu, so I’m very excited about that.”
At Ngezi, he has been re-united with veteran goalkeepers’ coach Cosmas Zulu, who discovered the Undertaker at the age of 14 in Bulawayo.
Mwaruwari will be assisted by former Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu and Takesure Chiragwi. His former Warriors colleague Tinashe Nengomasha is the club’s new team manager, while Tonderai Vera came in as the performance analyst.
After being introduced to the players on Tuesday afternoon, Mwaruwari was expected to start his official duties yesterday ahead of the team’s trip to Bulawayo Chiefs at the weekend.
But he will need to be granted a special waiver by Zifa to coach using his UEFA A licence.
Club licencing demands that only holders of Caf A coaching licence sit on the bench in the premier league.
Premier League matchday 10 fixtures
Saturday: Chicken Inn v Manica Diamonds (Luveve), Yadah v Herentals (Baobab, 1pm), FC Platinum v Whawha (Mandava), Cranborne Bullets v Bulawayo City (Sakubva), ZPC Kariba v Harare City (Nyamhunga)
Sunday: Triangle v Highlanders (Gibbo), Tenax v Caps United (Sakubva), Bulawayo Chiefs v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Luveve), Dynamos v Black Rhinos (National Sports Stadium)
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