Yesteryear greats: Nomsa ‘Boys’ Mighty Warriors’ all-time greatest

Nomsa “Boys” Moyo

Nomsa “Boys” Moyo

Lovemore Dube

WITH over 100 caps and 96 goals for her country, Nomsa “Boys” Moyo, the former Mighty Warriors’ midfield maestro’s feat sees her anchor the list of female football legends in Zimbabwe.
Gifted with sublime skills, strong defensively and a marvel in attack, Moyo was the foundation of many teams from club to country.

Her path as a player was crafted at home where her dad Kay Custom Moyo played football in the 1970s and brother Mike Vash turned out for Mbalabala Leopards.

At Grade 5, Moyo was thrown into the Lozikeyi Primary School boys’ first team.

“I was in the same team with former Zimbabwe Under-17 international Brian Mugadza who turned out for AmaZulu. I was encouraged by both my family and school teachers to play as they felt I had the skill,” said Moyo.

Moyo also played cricket at school where she starred as a bowler and batsman with the likes of Keith Dabengwa and Nkosana Ngubeni.

From Lozikeyi in Nguboyenja she crossed Luveve Road to Sobukazi for her secondary school education where she continued playing as a defender.

She was to become a victim of discrimination in the sport. After Sobukazi had bundled out St Columbus and Mzilikazi High School, one of the headmasters had her team disqualified because a girl was part of the team in the Coca-Cola tournament.

“I was down after that. However, I picked myself up with my parents encouraging me not to quit a sport I dearly loved.

“It was sad to have the Mzilikazi headmaster Mr (Cuthbert) Chiromo say the tournament was for boys only. I felt bad that my talent had not been realised,” said Moyo.

She started playing club football as a Grade Six pupil in 1994 when she joined Zimbabwe Saints Queens who were coached by Vusa Nyoni.

At Chikwata she played with the Southern Region women’s football fixtures secretary Samu Ndlovu.

A year later she joined Highlanders Royals and found a formidable side teeming with talent. Elizabeth Moyo, considered the best dribbler women’s football has had, Rose Mugadza, Samu Sibanda, Benita Phiri, Sukoluhle Dube and Lindiwe Mabhonzo Ncube were stalwarts in the side.

“I left Zimbabwe Saints because they were not serious. Things were not better at Royals as we hardly raised a good number for our training sessions. We played New Orleans and  Haverson Masilela invited me to join the club which by then was known as Gugulethu sponsored by Tryphine Nhliziyo,” she said.

Joining New Orleans, she said, was the turning point of her career as she got the much needed exposure.

“In no time we found ourselves travelling all over the country and even travelled to Swaziland in a star-studded team boasting Thenjiwe Dube, Fungai Nyamutukwa, Precious Mpala, Ruth Banda, Dudu Nkomo, Siphiwe Hlongwane and Soneni Jasi.

“In Swaziland Ruth was the top goal scorer in the tournament with 17 goals and with 15 goals, I was second but was adjudged to have been the Most Outstanding Player while Dudu Nkomo won the Goalkeepers’ Award,” said Moyo.

An Entumbane High School teacher, Cheumwe was the coach at the time.

With more games organised by Masilela, Moyo who had previously made the cut in the Southern Region Select coached by former Royals gaffer the late Dumisani Sibanda, her game improved.

She saw a future in the game and in 1999 marked her international back through for the country in a Mighty Warriors side coached by Vorster Tlou.

“Masilela was able to get sponsorships such as Induna Foods, Johnson and Johnson and Bulateke. There were competitions and we played football almost every week which saw us in better shape. If there were no women to play, we played men’s sides.

“I made my international debut in 1999 against South Africa in a match we lost 2-1. We had Rose Mugadza and Elizabeth Moyo, very senior players to learn from,” she added.

The Banyana Banyana side had the colourful duo of Veronica Phewa and Portia Modise both of whom played professional football for Arsenal Ladies in the UK.

Moyo was to score her first goal for the country against Namibia the following year in a match won by the Mighty Warriors 11-0.

In that match she scored two to open the floodgates for her other 94 for her country in a career she is believed to have scored over a thousand club goals.

“At club level I scored many goals as we rarely won by less than five goals of which I would be on the charts for almost every match,” said the mother of 12-year-old Denzil, who is at Young Flying Stars Academy where she coaches with director Collin Nyambiya.

In the return leg of the Afcon qualifier played at Katutura Stadium in Windhoek, she announced her arrival as a big name player for the future with a four-goal salvo in the 4-0 win putting to rest reliance on Yesmore Mutero and Elizabeth Moyo.

Her career had three Cosafa runners-up medals and a winners medal in 2012 in the twilight of her career, scoring her last goal in the tournament in Harare.

She remembers with nostalgia her tally of 17 goals in the 2001 finals, four short of top goal scorer Veronica Phewa of South Africa.

She also played in three Afcon finals twice finishing in the top four. Her most treasured goal was a 45-metre drive scored against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2004.

“We had great rivalry with our neighbours South Africa. The results were always a close call of 2-1 even when we bundled them out of the semi-finals of the 2004 Afcon finals, it was a similar score line,” she said.

Her greatest regret was not being part of the Zimbabwe Olympics team for the 2016 Games held in Brazil.

For a true warrior who had laboured and sacrificed so much for her country and served it with distinction, it would have been a fitting farewell to a successful career in which she was ever an inspiration to other girls.

Many believe she is the best female Warrior to don national colours in a thin field that also has former Highlanders and Mighty Warriors star of the 1980s and early 1990s Samukeliso Mahlangu.

While Mahlangu had skill, vision and ball control, she lacked a few attributes that Moyo possessed.

Moyo was a team player, who could with the flick of a finger from the bench change the tide and hold the game by the scruff of the neck and make things happen.

Her play was the female version of another legendary Bulawayo footballer Honour Gombami.

She played direct football and was an immaculate link between defence, midfield and attack, holding the ball when necessary, taking on an opponent to subtract the numbers towards opposition half, passing incisively or finishing with distinction at the right moment.

Moyo bemoans the standard of women’s football nowadays.

“We took the game to a certain level during the days of very committed administrators like Masilela and as a nation we should have built on that. We played for fun, getting as little as one dollar in camp just to serve our country in a sport we love.

“Football wants commitment at all levels. Administrators have to up the game as much as coaches and players have to,” said the former New Orleans co-coach with Mighty Warriors boss Sithethelelwe Sibanda.

Moyo said her biggest inspiration in the game was Diego Maradona with Rose Mugadza the most difficult opponent she ever faced.

“Mugadza as a centre back for the Royals was tough, fast and her tackles were hard. But for me the turning point perhaps was earlier on in my youth watching Brazil and Germany women in action. I just told myself I could some day play at their level,” said Moyo.

Moyo spent three years from 2008-2010 playing for MaIndies in South Africa in a deal brokered by the late Masilela which saw her cross the Limpopo River with Daisy Mukwena, Nokuthula Ndlovu and Ntombi Ndlovu.

All things being equal in life Moyo deserved to play in a more competitive environment abroad and earn her pension as she had everything a professional player has to have.

She was born an athlete, committed and disciplined to her cause and ever eager to excel.