Stars of the past with BENEDICT TEMBO
ROBBY Simukonde is grateful to Indeni Football Club for welcoming and settling him after his return from South Africa where he spent over a decade.
Simukonde, popularly Mfede, named after the former Cameroon international of the 1990 squad, Louis Paul Mfede.
Simukonde, however, did not make the same impact as late Mfede, who marked the spirits during the opener of the 1990 World Cup as the man-of â€“the-match during the Cameroon- Argentina match, coaches Indeniâ€™s womenâ€™s team, Roses.
He is grateful to Indeni for giving him a life-line following his unceremonious return from South Africa following the first xenophoebic attacks of 2008 left more than 60 people, mostly foreign nationals, dead.
Simukonde, who was based in Bloemfontein, said he was left without any personal or business property following the attacks as he fled to neighbouring Lesotho for refuge.
â€œAfter staying in Lesotho for two months, I started thinking of starting life afresh,â€ Simukonde who returned in 2011, said.
Simukonde was born on October 20, 1968 to Robby Simukonde senior and Idah Nanyangwe. He was born alone but has five step brothers and sisters from his mother, who re-married Edwin Simusamba following the death of his father. Simusamba is also late.
â€˜Mfedeâ€™ went to Zikomo Primary School in Itawa, Ndola, then did his junior secondary school at Masala and stopped due to lack of support.
Simukonde started playing football whilst at school and joined Zesco Unitedâ€™s under-20 where he doubled as being a member of the senior team, being on the bench though.
He was privileged to have been going with the â€˜big boysâ€™ such as Vincent Chileshe, Michael â€˜Spinksâ€™ Bwalya, Abraham Mubanga, Chris Mwakapuki, Hyde Mulenga and Joseph Zulu, among others.
â€œThat team was very strong, to break into that team was not easy but as a young boy, I was there,â€ Simukonde said.
After warming the bench in 1986 when Zesco won promotion to the Super Division, Simukonde broke through in 1987 when he played in the BP Challenge Cup final against Zanaco when the bankers were in Division Two.
In 1988, Simukonde was suspended by Zesco and in frustration, he joined Ndola United where he played with the likes of Yotham â€˜Successâ€™ Sakala, Rodgers Lupiya Happy Ponda, Francis Litana and Charles Chanda, among others.
After a season at Ndola, he was recalled by Zesco. It turned out that when Ndola were due to play Zesco, they were accused of not having properly cleared him and missed the game as a consequence.
Two days later, he returned to Zesco where he found almost the same crop of players he had left â€“ except that this time, he played with Ackson â€˜Scudâ€™ Shimbala at the top while Godfrey Nyirenda and Jones Ngulube had joined.
Shortly after joining, sponsorship became a problem and the team was demoted to Division One.
The team brought in younger players such as Honour Janza, Stephen Mwansa (now FQM coach) Dick Ngwenya. Clement â€˜Sowetoâ€™ Banda.
He played for the entire 1989 season but having been out of school and Zesco not employing, Simukonde had to leave to join a club where he earn something and support his family.
Mfede joined Chambishi under coach Fordson Kabole and lined up with Simonda Kaunda, Emmanuel Siwale, Michael Ngowani, Moses Chikwalakwala.
His biggest achievement at Chambishi was playing in the Heroes and Unity Cup quarter-finals which they played three times against Power Dynamos, with the first match ending 0-0, the second 1-1.
â€œWe were supposed to play the second replay at a neutral ground but we do not know what happened,â€ Simukonde said.
But despite Power missing Linos Makwaza, Pearson Mwanza and Wisdom Chansa who were away with the national team, they won the second replay in extra-time.
Ngowani was red carded 15 minutes into the match and Simukonde offered to play as a right back.
To everyoneâ€™s surprise, he played like he had two lives, prompting Kabole to remark:â€ Ba Mfede, mwaletubepafye ati nimwe ba number nine kanshi nimwe ba number two (Mfede, you were lying to us that you were a central striker when in fact you are a right back.â€
When he left Chambishi, Simukonde went to Kafue where he settled with Nitrogen Stars but only for three months.
After a practice match with Green Buffaloes in Kafue, he was told by the visiting coach Obby Kapita that â€œnikumpanga kuno [it is a bush here], nobody will see you.â€
He was secretly ushered into a military Peugeot and whisked to Lusaka and joined the army club.
Simukonde said he fitted in well in Buffaloes which had the likes of Eston Mulenga, Boniface â€˜Killerâ€™ Chanda, Willie Chibwika, Newton Chibuye and Joseph Esiloni.
In the same year, he played in the CISM military games in Italy and also in the Netherlands where Zambia qualified as the most disciplined.
Simukonde was a substitute in Zambiaâ€™s first game against Germany who were the defending champions.
The Zambian team comprised John Zyambo, Lucas Mutuna, Obed Bunda, Kafula Chinkalanga, Chibuye, Chanda, Chewe Mulenga, Jack Simbule with Kapita and Dick Chama as coaches.
Simukonde said he and Chanda attracted the attention of scouts but claims that they could not be allowed to sign with European clubs because they were soldiers.
Surprisingly, Simukonde ditched Buffaloes for Zesco thinking things had changed at the Ndola-based side.
But during their first league match against Nkwazi in 1995, Simukonde heard what he never expected when Zesco officials went to the dressing room and told the players the food they had for lunch was the last.
The team was given a bus by sponsors from which it derived its operational costs and some players like Simukonde became conductors.
â€œThe lack of sponsorship contributed to the team being demoted to Division One,â€ he said.
Lack of incentives at Zesco forced Simukonde to trek to South Africa to seek greener pastures.
In Johannesburg, he was welcomed by compatriots Roderick Chipeta, Fred Banda, and Chris Mwakapuki.
His first team in post-apartheid South Africa was Harankuwa Stars sponsored by Lucas Magope, who leader of the apartheid homeland Bophuthatswana.
After playing a few games, he was seen by â€˜bigâ€™ teams such as Mabopane Young Stars in the homeland where he played for seven years, helping them win the Reebok Cup and finish fourth in the league.
Simukonde became player-coach and then coach.
He retired from soccer while in the former Bophuthatswana homeland when the team failed to secure him a work mate and became a scrap metal dealer.
Simukonde was later involved in a fatal accident which consigned him to hospital for a long time and by the time he was discharged, his business had collapsed.
When he was recovering, South Africa witnessed the worst xenophobic attack and Simukonde escaped to Lesotho.
â€œI am happy I am here, I felt it [xenophobic attack],â€ Simukonde says.
On his return from South Africa, Simukonda was welcomed by William Zulu, the coach for Zesco Unitedâ€™s womenâ€™s team.
Zulu was then coach of Kwacha Stars Academy.
After attending a CAF C licence coach in Lusaka, Simukonde became coach of Kwacha Stars but moved to Simba School after the former was sold.
This year, thanks to Sam Zulu, the Indeni technical director â€“ sports, he was tasked to form a womenâ€™s team, an idea he embraced and embarked on the task with humility.
Simukonde is being assisted in shaping up Indeni Roses by Mastaki Chola and Florence Shikabeta.
Simukonde is married to Matilda Zulu and they have three daughters aged 26, 21 and 16. They also have a granddaughter.
Stars of the past with BENEDICT TEMBO