By Simbarashe Musaki
THE adage, ‘fame is greater than its owner and talent is innate and not attached like a patch of cloth’ basically defines Harare City Football Club legend, Tendai Samanja’s indelible mark in the history of Bindura football fraternity, despite leaving the city 14 years ago, to play for Harare based clubs.
Samanja, popularly known as “Jahman”, by a legion of his fans, due to his dreadlocks was born in Bindura in 1986, and his rise to stardom can be rewound to his tender age of eight years at Salvation Primary School in Bindura, playing for the school’s ‘B’ team, as a striker.
In 1997, when he was in grade five, he was elevated to play in the ‘A’ team, which was usually dominated by grade seven students. Surprisingly to him, he was nominated captain of the team, ahead of his elder teammates.
Salvation Primary School won the Bindura schools tournament with the help of young Samanja and proceeded to represent the town at provincial level.
Due to his outstanding performance, he was selected to represent Mashonaland Central Province.
His football career blossomed in 2001, whilst doing his Form two (2) at Chipindura high school when he was signed by the Division 2 side, Chroma Paints – which was more of a Bindura United reserve team – playing alongside Stoneshed Deve and Morris Tembo.
The hyperopic Bindura United coaches recognized talent in Samanja and transferred him to Chipadze primary school, taking responsibility for his school fees.
In 2002, while in form three, he graduated to play for Division 1 side, Bindura United playing alongside his brother Prince Samanja and Ngezi Football Club juniors coach Leonard Emmanuel.
Talent is like fire, it cannot be hidden under dry leaves, Samanja was soon spotted by then Division One side Monomotopa Football Club in 2002, while playing a soccer tournament in the remote area of Guruve and the club subsequently transferred him to Vainona high school, meeting his school fees expenses.
In 2005, Monomotopa was promoted into the Premier League under the mentorship of Arthur Tutani and Friday Phiri.
He spend the whole season on the bench, in a star-studded team, which comprised of Mthulisi Maposa, Sageby Sandaka, Daniel Zokoto, Herbert Dick, and Malawian international Peter Muponda among others.
Samanja waited for his game time with the patience of a fisherman and the coaches rewarded him in 2006 after they realizing his maturity for premiership play.
Revered former national team skipper, Norman Mapeza joined the relegation bound Monomotapa Football Club in 2007 and managed to turn the club’s fortunes, only to finish the season in eighth place.
Amazingly, in 2008 Monomotopa was crowned premiership champions with in-form Samanja scoring 9 goals, playing as an attacking midfielder and was nominated and awarded the club’s Outstanding Young Player of the year.
In 2009, he played in the African Champions League and Monomotapa reached the mini-league phase.
His dream of playing for a big club came true in 2011 when he joined Caps United, under the mentorship of Maxwell Jongwe on a 3-years contract.
Interestingly, in 2014, when Samanja captained Caps Utd the team won all the matches under his guidance compared to his predecessors Tapiwa Khumbuyani and Tafadzwa Dube.
Samanja joined the ‘Sunshine Boys’, Harare City in 2015 at the expiry of his Caps Utd contract. He helped his new team to win Chibuku Super Cup and automatically qualified to represent Zimbabwe at the Confederations Cup. However, Zanaco knocked the Sunshine Boys in the second round.
In 2018, he suffered a career-threatening injury playing against Chapungu in a league game at Rufaro Stadium and he spent 3 months nursing the injury. During this trying period, Mark Harrison, the then Sunshine Boys coach, advised Samanje to quit playing football and pursue a coaching career.
Samanja, whose role model is Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, heed his former mentor’s advice and is currently part of the Harare City technical staff comprising of Lloyd Chitembwe, Nelson Matongorere, and Fungai Kwashi after completing coaching Level 1 and 2 courses in 2019.
In life sky is the limit, Samanja who has one national team cap is still pursuing his coaching course to reach the peak of the career.
By Simbarashe Musaki