Harare – The fitness trainer at Zanaco Football Club in Zambia, Thompson Matenda, has trekked what can only be described as an irregular career path.
As a little boy in a rural area of central Zimbabwe called Gokwe, he was known as a gymnast of sorts, albeit without any real training in the sport. It wasn’t – and still isn’t – the sort of sport that wins children scholarships in rural Zimbabwe, and it was it was touch and go whether or not he would be able to continue with school as his parents couldn’t afford his tuition.
Then the Jairos Jiri Band, fronted by the now late Paul Matavire, heard about his prowess and decided to rope the lad into their live act.
His theatrics on stage earned him some money and he was able to complete his schooling.
After school he joined the police force. And in the force he became a part of its mass displays team, often wooing crowds at public events with his gymnastic skills.
And boy did he hate soccer!
“I never liked football,” he tells The Southern Times Sport. “Gymnastics was all l loved. I didn’t like the tension associated with football. Nothing interested me in that game. I mean, I was never interested in even watching the game even on television.”
Then one day, fellow cop Masimba Dinyero – who was the 1988 Zimbabwe Footballer of the Year – asked him to assist with soccer training.
“I flatly refused at first, but later on I started considering it. I started watching some football matches on television and I realised that some of the players looked as if they were not properly conditioned to compete professionally. I decided to give it a go.
“I found myself falling in love with the game and I started to enrol for advanced sports courses. I have never looked back since then.”
Before long, the man who could not stand soccer was a fitness trainer with Zimbabwe’s most successful club, Dynamos.
Dynamos had endured a painful decade-long premier league title drought when he joined the club in 2007. That very year, the team won the league and cup double, and then reached the CAF Champions league semi-finals in 2008.
Matenda would briefly work with Mozambican giants Costa do Sol, before joining the Zimbabwe men’s national team for the 2009 COSAFA Cup.
Clubs in Botswana, Malawi and South Africa all sought his services as a fitness trainer.
He is now working with Zambian giants Zanaco, whose leadership have been giving him some rave reviews of late due to the manner in which he conducts his work.