Gift Lunga Jnr speaks out on age cheating
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Then he was brushing aside demands for remuneration by members of the Under-17 squad that had taken part at the 1997 CAF Africa Under-17 Championships held in Botswana.
The side had left the nation spellbound with a performance that saw them qualifying for the finals of the championships where, unfortunately, they just managed to win a single draw.
Though they failed to make it in Botswana, the youngsters had done well to assure the nation of a bright future with a mesmerising performance.
Little did poor Gumede know that some of the players he purported to be school children were in fact family men already fending for their families.
But as they say, lies have short legs; the truth always comes out.
One of the stars of that Under-17 squad, Gift Makheyi Lunga (Jnr) was drafted into the squad for the Under-20 tournament but could not fit into that team after revelations that he was born on February 26 1976, which made him 21 years old then.
Though Lunga later rose to become one of the most exciting players in the Highlanders and Warriors colours, he failed to shrug off the age cheat tag.
Looking back in retrospect, Lunga, now an Under-16 coach at Highlanders regrets, ever making that decision.
"That was a terrible mistake which I regret to this day. I did not play in that competition using my correct name as I used my friend's name (name withheld). I was young and wanted to play for the national team. I blame the coaches who advised me to do that," he said.
Lunga, whose first child Stella was born in 1997, the same year he played for the Under-17 team, said age cheating is not something he would advise his young players to do.
"They should stick to their age groups. We did not get the right advice during our youthful days," he said.
Lunga, who retired last year after 16 years of service to the game, rose to become one of the most recognisable faces in the Highlanders line up as well as with Warriors, whom he helped win the Cosafa Cup in 2005.
His overlapping runs down the left flank will always be remembered by many, but some still view him as a ruthless defender with players such as Musareka Jenitala, Eddie Mashiri and Gary Mashoko having been made casualties.
"I was never a cruel player. Mistakes are common in football. Players such as Edward Sadomba, Samson Choruwa and Musareka Jenitala were very fast. I always found it difficult playing against them and that explains why most of the times I was sent off," he said.
Lunga also spoke of his love for Highlanders FC.
"I played for Highlanders for 14-years in my 16-year flirtation with the league. I would have completed my career at Highlanders had it not been for Madinda Ndlovu who pushed me out of the team. That is when I joined CAPS United, but it pained me that Highlanders won the championship the year that I left," he said.
Thebe, as Lunga is popularly known, started his soccer career at the age of 14 with Zimbabwe Saints, but later joined Highlanders juniors two years later in 1992.
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