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In Conversation with Trevor: ‘I want to take players to Europe’

The coach, who had stints in France and South Africa, also took the opportunity to clear the confusion over his name.

Former Zimbabwe senior national soccer team captain Benjani Mwaruwari says his dream as a coach is to nurture the next generation of football players that will break into the major European leagues.

Mwaruwari (BM), an ex-Manchester City and Portsmouth striker, who now coaches Ngezi Platinum Stars in Zimbabwe’s topflight league, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that he wanted to use his experience in top European leagues to inspire young players.

The coach, who had stints in France and South Africa, also took the opportunity to clear the confusion over his name.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Benjani Mwaruwari, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

BM: Thank you for having me Trevor.

TN: I do not take this for granted. I was talking to you over the phone and you were busy coaching, you have got a very busy life.

  • Let us start with your name. Benjani Mwaruwaru, Mpenjani Mwaruwari?
  • What is happening on here? Which one is your real name?

BM: My real name is Mpenjani, in Nyasaland or Malawian language, it is called Mpenjani. Dingani in Ndebele or Tsvagai in Shona.

I think when my father was going to acquire the birth certificate for me they misunderstood him, because of the language, he was from Malawi.

So when he would call me he would say it and it would sound like Benjani.

When people would call me Benjani he called me Mpenjani.

Sometimes I feel like he said Benjani so I do not blame the person who recorded it that way at the birth certificate office.

TN: And you have now become Benjani? Instead of Mpenjani?

BM: It was a bit of a problem when I signed for Lulu Rovers, they saw my birth certificate and then they thought it was Benjamin.

So from Lulu going all the way to South Africa it was Benjamin.

Then when I went to France a coach in France was having difficulty to say my surname, because normally they put your surname at the back of your shirt.

Then he was struggling to say Mwaruwari, and it is not even that, it is Mwaluwali.

So he decided to put Benjani, he was the one who actually saw it was not Benjamin but Benjani.

Then people were wondering, [when I came] from Zimbabwe I was Benjamin and now I was called Benjani, hahaha.

TN: Wow. And what about Mwaruwari?

BM: Yes, Mwaruwari is Mwaluwali.

TN: Mwaluwali.

BM: When the people from Malawi are calling it, it sounds like it is Mwaruwari but it is Mwaluwali.

That W-A in between there is G-H-A. It is mwa in Malawian is G-H-A, so my surname is Mwalughali.

TN: That is your real surname?

BM: That is my real surname.

TN: Is that the one in your birth certificate?

BM: No. it is Mwaruwari on the birth certificate. Wrong spelling.

TN: Wow. How does that sit with you? That name that has been mangled like that?

BM: You know what is written on your birth certificate is your real name up until you change it.

So when you are out there with the people and they know you as Benjani Mwaruwari, so if I change it, then it will be difficult you know.

TN: So Benjani you are not alone in this because I am also like that.

  • My birth certificate name is Traver, but everybody else knows me as Trevor.
  • This is because I think when my mother went to get my birth certificate somebody misspelt my name, but I have been trying to change it to how it is supposed to be spelt.
  • So you are not the only one. I think there are a lot of people out there.
  • Benjani you are now retired? And you are now coaching like I said when I started. You are head coach of Ngezi Platinum Stars.
  • Do you miss playing?

BM: No, not at all.

TN: I thought there was lots of fun in playing rather than coaching? Why do you not miss playing?

BM: I do not miss it because there are a lot of things in it.

You need to concentrate, you need discipline, and you need to sleep a lot.

There are a lot of things that happen. As a coach now I am doing more because I love it, it is my job as well.

As soon as I retired I never wished to go back and play you know.

TN: So because of the discipline and the regime of playing?

BM: It is fun though but every year you will take 10 to 11 months without you going on holiday, without you visiting family, without you doing anything.

Of course we had some free days like Sundays, but you know it is not enough, you need to behave, and you need to rest a lot.

That I did not like.

TN: You need to train?

BM: You need to train you know, you need to be focused. A lot of things will be happening when you are a footballer.

People will say you only train one to two hours but I would also have a lot of pressure.

At the same time you need to perform, so you cannot perform if you are not resting enough, if you are not eating…

TN: Well?

BM: Well. If you are misbehaving, it is a lot.

TN: A tough life?

BM: Yes it is a tough life.

TN: When we see you, I mean like when you came into the studio here, people are excited to see you.

  • They are taking pictures with you, there is a beautiful side to being a football star?

BM: Of course, sometimes even if you do not like it you need to pretend.

You need to do it for the people. At the end, even if you do not like it you will end up liking it.

It will now be your routine, it will now be your life.

TN: That is interesting Mpenjani. You end up doing it for the people.

  • I get the sense there that there is a bit initially that is not enjoyable?
  • It is almost like you are acting? You are doing this because the people want it?

BM: At the beginning it will start like you are acting, but there is no getting away from it.

Sometimes it is how you do it.

When you meet someone and they say can I have a picture, then some people will show you a face where they do not even want to take a picture.

Some will be nice and then even if you do not feel like it they will say Benjani is a nice guy, Trevor is a nice guy you know when I was taking picture with him he was even laughing.

I can tell you from experience, when I was like playing in Europe, you come out and you have like 1,000 people waiting for pictures and autographs, you know?

I will be like I am tired but I have to do it.

You have to put on that brave smile, smiling for 1,000 people. At the end you will like it even if you do not like it.

TN: Tell me. There is that bit of it. Tell me what you did not particularly like about being a star? About being celebrated?

  • I know there is a whole thing, you build a house and that kind of thing? What did you not like about being a star?

BM: It is to pretend, and do things that you do not want.

You know sometimes you can walk on the street, or you want to buy something and then you think people will say is he really buying that?

It is not me. I have to send someone to go and get items and that kind of thing. Not being you.

That is what I did not like.

You know you want to be yourself, but sometimes they are restrictions where you just want to go and see what is going on there.

You are not allowed to go there and people will think he was there for this and that reason.

Even of you just want to go out and get the experience. So that is the part I did not like.

TN: Wow that is a tough life. Now you are a free man.

  • You are now the head coach of Ngezi Platinum Football Stars. How is it? How is the hot seat? How long have you been in the seat?

BM: I think almost two months. I am enjoying it though. It is a challenge.

Sometimes even tough challenges you embrace them and you will be smiling at the end.

I am liking the challenge, and a lot of people they said I will fail. That is giving me the drive and I am working hard.

You know when people they say you will fail it motivates you.

Of course, as I am doing that there is only two results, for me to succeed or to fail.

If you have that thing that you want to do it and you are enjoying it, of course I may fail, but I want to succeed.

It is the people around me, am I having the right team? People want to learn, people want to work hard and be there and be the stars of Zimbabwe.

TN: So there are people who are saying you will fail?

  • Are there people who are saying you will succeed? Are there people saying oh yes this is just for you?

BM: Of course. They know me as a player. I cannot say I was successful, as they are the ones who judge that.

I did well in Europe as a player.

So what took me there, people do not know. It was through hard work and discipline.

There are times when you are caught offside, I am a human being anyway.

If you stick to discipline and work hard you will achieve.

TN: You have got a four year contract?

BM: Yep.

TN: What do you think you need to be able to succeed? To put to shame these people that say you will fail? What do you need?

BM: It is not about putting shame to them. Sometimes if you live for people you will get it wrong.

I want to bring back what I have learnt in Europe and inspire the young kids and try take some of the kids to Europe.

So whoever is saying I will succeed or I will fail I am not bothered because I chose to be the coach, I have to work hard to be the best coach, that is my wish and I will work for it.

Even if I have some of the advantages of being Benjani I can use that advantage as well.

If you do not have haters you will think you are doing well.

If you do not have them you will not be bothered to do your best, you need to have them as people to push you and I want to have them, I love them and want to have more of them.

TN: So they push you to succeed?

BM: Of course.

TN: They do not discourage you?

BM: No, no, not at all.

TN: Really?

BM: You know sometimes if someone says something discouraging it is their opinion.

Everyone has a right in a free country to their opinion.

If someone says you are not good enough, go back and work hard to be good enough if you want to succeed.

TN: Tell me, for you what are the goals as head coach of Ngezi Platinum Stars?

  • What is it that you want to achieve? Is it winning the league? Is it the African title as it were? What are your targets?

BM: My target is to win the league.

TN: Okay.

BM: You know I hope and I wish if they can give me the time. I came in after they had played about 10 games. They were in a good position.

So I need to maintain that. It takes time for the team to understand what I want.

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