Basketball was always my first sport. When I was about 18 or 19, I was expecting scouts from US colleges to come and see me play. I was worried that if I just relaxed during the off-season I would not be fit enough when they came to look at me.
I wanted to stay fit and I went to a football club and asked them if I could train with them. The first club said no, but then a friend suggested I go to CAPS United. They are a big team in Zimbabwe, it is like going to Manchester United and asking to train with them. But they agreed.
After training with them for a while, they offered me a contract. The coach took a big chance by signing me. I was a basketball player.
And it was not only me, he also signed a deejay. Fans thought: ‘What on earth is going on with this coach?’. First, he signed this guy whose day-to-day job was being a deejay and now he’s about to sign a basketball player.
There was a lot of controversy but in the end, everything paid off because here we are today. The coach and the club took a gamble on me and I feel I still owe them, because I would have never been where I am today if it wasn’t for them.
Nyasha Mushekwi in action for current side Zhejiang in the Chinese Super League
I wanted to repay them, and I was thinking of ways to do that. Sending kit and stuff like that is one thing, but I wanted to give them something more lasting. Something that would benefit them for a long time.
So, I looked at the challenges facing footballers in many parts of Africa – and one of the biggest challenges is transport. In Zimbabwe, most of the travel between games is by bus.
But not a team bus, just any bus. That led to many challenges. Often the bus would simply break down on the journey, or it would arrive late because it had broken down coming to pick up the players.
The longest trip we made with CAPS was 12 hours when we played against Hwange. The distance is not so much, but there is no direct road. So first you have to travel south to Bulawayo and then up north to Hwange.
My last game there, we left late because there were some issues over payments that had not been made, so we only arrived at 5am on the day of the match. It was a 3pm kick-off, but we still managed to draw.
Even with the national team we sometimes travelled by bus. I remember once we had a game in Malawi and they flew in some players from Europe to Harare and then expected them to travel 14 hours by bus to Malawi.
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Nyasha Mushekwi on national team duty with Zimbabwe
All of this travelling is made worse by the fact that they are just normal buses. There is little space and the players sit cramped for many hours.
When I left Zimbabwe, I saw what buses teams in Europe – and even South Africa – were using, and I wanted to give something back to CAPS for taking a chance on me. In 2019, I decided to buy them a proper team bus, like they have in Europe.
Players need space on the bus, they have to be comfortable. You don’t want to be squeezed up like you are in a normal bus. The seats have to recline and there should be TV screens at the back of the seats in case they’re traveling long distances. I bought the bus in China and sent it to Zimbabwe.
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Nyasha Mushekwi with the CAPS United coach
Getting it there was a big challenge. I just wanted to donate the bus, but suddenly so many people got involved. Some people didn’t want the bus in Zimbabwe. I don’t know whether it was just jealousy. It’s just African politics in football, I guess.
They were trying to sabotage the whole process, making me pay more tax, more duties. In the end, I ended up paying money that could have bought another bus.
But I am pleased that I did it. People have sent me photos of the bus being used by not only CAPS, but the national cricket team, the women’s national team and other teams. I am pleased that it is not only working for one purpose, which was CAPS United, but for the greater good.
The whole process of also trying to get it into Zimbabwe was a big problem, but in the end the whole purpose was to help – and it’s helping a lot of people.
In our series #CommunityChampion, we highlight a professional footballer’s activities to help impact the lives of other people in his or her community. Every two weeks, we put the spotlight on another player.