Southern Africa's oldest professional footballer turns 48 and still feels fit...

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Tadious Manyepo

Harare-Southern Africa's oldest active professional football player, Innocent Benza of Zimbabwe has turned 48 years and still feels fit enough to play on.

Benza, who plays along with his 19-year old son, Tinotenda for Premier Soccer League side Herentals made his debut in the top-flight two years ago after the promotion of his team into the super league.

He broke the record for the oldest player to score a league goal in Southern Africa when he scored against Air Force of Zimbabwe side, Chapungu in 2018.

He has gone to provide 10 assists and score four more goals in 37 starts over the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

And as he celebrated a 48 year milestone, Benza said he has no intentions to hang his boots as yet.

"I am feeling fitter than I was when I started playing football in the top-flight about two years ago," said Benza.

"I have turned 48 years right, and as I have always said, age is nothing but, just a number.

"I feel my feet still have the strength and energy to carry me on.

"I don't want to lie. I am still feeling very fit and I don't see myself hanging my boots anytime soon."

Benza has charmed a lot and won critical acclaim in the Zimbabwean league.

His team usually attracts a decent number of spectators as fans have grown an interest to watch him in action while displaying top-notch skills.

Yet, Benza was an unknown quantity until Herentals started making headlines while in Division One back in 2016 when he was already 44 years old.

He said he has always played football since he was young but business prospects swayed him away when he was about to sign for a big club when he was 20.

"I don't know why but I think some business opportunities which propped up when I was about 20 years old and lack of proper advice drove me away,” he said.

"One of the top Zimbabwean clubs wanted to sign me but then I lacked advice.

"I regret all that but I am happy I still managed to defy everything and fulfilled my dream to play in the top-tier league when I broke into the Premier Soccer League with Herentals two years ago.

"I am grateful to the Herentals coaches who continue to give me the opportunity to play in the league.”

He added, "One day, I would like to be a coach but, as of now, I am focused on playing football."

The Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League, like all other leagues in the region, is still on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak currently ravaging the world.

The season was supposed to begin in March. However, it seems it could start in August or September and with a condensed program that will see it finish by February next year.

Herentals though are not ensured of another romance in the Premiership after they were banned by the Premier Soccer League for allegedly taking football matters to the ordinary courts.

But, they have since appealed that ban to the Zimbabwe Football Association Appeals Committee who are likely to overthrow the verdict due to some several loopholes.

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