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Junior Makunike: Zimbabwe’s football prodigy with a supernatural connection

There’s more to Junior Makunike’s meteoric rise than just natural talent. The 20-year-old football sensation, already drawing comparisons to Zimbabwean greats, has a story woven with both loss and the thrill of dreams coming true. On a day etched in Zimbabwean football history, March 13th, a legend was tragically lost. 

Blessing ‘Yogo Yogo’ Makunike, a star for Harare giants Caps United, perished in a car accident along with two teammates. Exactly 18 years later, on the very same date, destiny took an incredible turn. 

A new Makunike burst onto the scene, this time a young man named Junior, following in his uncle’s footsteps with his official Premiership debut.

“My debut was special, my club at the time [Dynamos] actually tweeted about the fact that my uncle passed away on the same day. It’s amazing how God does these things,” the 20-year-old tells FARPost.

Blessing’s career had seen him light up the Zimbabwean topflight with Caps United and even venture abroad for a stint in Serbia. But the horrific accident cut his journey short at 27, leaving a huge void in the hearts of fans. 

Junior, born in the same year of the tragedy, never had the chance to know his uncle personally. Yet, Yogo Yogo’s legacy looms large, a constant source of inspiration for the budding footballer. His maiden season in the topflight was a poignant echo of his uncle’s career.

Junior Makunike playing for football team
Junior Makunike during his time at Dynamos


The memory of his late uncle burns brightly in his heart. His father, Jeffrey Makunike, and grandmother serve as a constant reminder of his uncle’s legacy, fuelling the rising star’s ambition. “My father has told me about my uncle and that inspires me a lot,” Makunike reflects. “I am told he was a good player, so I just want to take over from where he left and elevate the name Makunike to higher levels.”

“I never got to see him play because I was born the year he died. But I’ve heard a lot about his talent. He was a top player. His memory pushes me to be better every day,” he states. “But I’m not just living his dream; I’m creating my own.”

Junior Makunike has quickly become a name to watch in Zimbabwean football. Now playing for Simba Bhora, a team embarking on their second season in the Premier League, his talent shines bright.

The versatile midfielder’s previous year, at the young age of 19, was phenomenal. Playing for giants Dynamos, he was a rock in their midfield. DeMbare won the 2023 Chibuku Super Cup title, earning themselves a coveted spot in the CAF Confederations Cup.

His first Castle Lager Premier Soccer League goal wasn’t just a strike – it was a work of art. A rebound, a controlled chest, and a blistering half-volley rocketed past Chicken Inn’s Pride Zendera, a testament to his burgeoning talent.

“I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity I got to play for a massive club like Dynamos. It built my confidence and somewhat shaped my character on the pitch. I’m lucky that I find myself at another ambitious club now. I’m enjoying my football.”

Junior Makunike Zimbabwe's football prodigy
Junior Makunike


Bulawayo-born Makunike, like Marvelous Nakamba of Luton Town, developed his skills at Bantu Rovers.  His talent was then spotted by the Prince Edward Academy who offered him a scholarship at the age of 14. Once he was ripe, DeMbare came pouncing. 

He plays with a composure and confidence that crackles with excitement, especially in those heart-pounding, big-match moments. His style of play has the power to lure fans back into stadiums, eager for a taste of his on-field brilliance.

Prince Edward coach Norman Taruvinga shares a fascinating story about his discovery of the talented player. The coach’s tale highlights the importance of personal connections and scouting in a world where potential stars can be hidden in unexpected places.

“Well, I can’t say I saw Junior Makunike [play],” Taruvinga told FARPost. “I heard about him after our school conducted a nationwide scouting program, but then I learned that there was a boy in Bulawayo who had been missed by the exercise.”

Instead of dismissing the missed opportunity, Taruvinga decided to act. “So I decided to take a trip to Bulawayo to find this boy, ” he says. The coach had a connection through Makunike’s aunt, who worked at Prince Edward in Harare. This link and word-of-mouth directions led him on a 439-kilometer journey.

“I didn’t have any problems finding the place,” adds the qualified school teacher. “In fact, I saw some ‘football player-looking boys’ somewhere in Mzilikazi suburb, and they gave me the most accurate directions to the address I had.”

When he arrived, Makunike’s family agreed to allow the young player to move to Harare and attend Prince Edward School.

Simba Bhora team
Makunike with his Simba Bhora teammates


“I’d not seen him play any football. I just took the gamble to have him at our school,” Taruvinga remarks.

“We worked with him from that age, 14 years till he was 18. During that time he showed a lot of confidence and comfort on the ball.”

Taruvinga pinpointed an unforgettable occurrence during Makunike’s time on a 5-a-side tournament team. “The most memorable incidents were when spectators lifted him during play,” Taruvinga recalls. “Junior did some indescribable skill with the ball that the crowd got ecstatic and the next thing we saw was him in the air, yet the game was in play.” Similar crowd reactions in a different town just a week later solidified the then-teenager’s impact as a player.

Taruvinga emphasises Makunike’s unique style. “As he grew, he also became even more comfortable and skilful and he enjoyed displaying his skill.” His talent was undeniable in Dynamos’ reserve side, earning him a first-team promotion under then-coach Tonderayi Ndiraya. Coincidentally, Ndiraya is now his mentor at Simba Bhora.

Warriors coach Norman Mapeza recently handed Makunike his senior national team debut
Warriors coach Norman Mapeza recently handed Makunike his senior national team debut

Taruvinga sees a remarkable future for the talented midfielder, describing his talent as “rare” and a force that could “scale dizzy heights.”

“His skill is undeniable; his artistry with the ball is exceptional,” Taruvinga emphasises. “He has a fearlessness, a willingness to take risks, and an insatiable desire to learn. Above all, he has a deep, pure love for the game.”

Ndiraya, an exceptional footballer during his heydays, highlights his versatility. He’s transitioned seamlessly from a classic ‘number 8’ to a deep-lying playmaker (6), and now flourishes as an attacking midfielder.

He recalls Makunike’s breakout moment: “We were playing the Harare derby [between Caps United and Dynamos] and we put him into the team… Junior Makunike was tasked to shut Devon Chafa out and we knew that once he had done that, everything would go well.” 

Makunike’s mental fortitude is what sets him apart, according to Ndiraya. “We played him, we won the game 3-0 and Junior was outstanding. From then on, it gave us confidence and the crowd quickly accepted [him].”

Simba Bhora coach Tonderayi Ndiraya
Simba Bhora coach Tonderayi Ndiraya who gave Makunike his debut at Dynamos

Ndiraya sees Makunike as this generation’s answer to legendary midfielder Ronald ‘Gidiza’ Sibanda. “He’s one of the most talented midfielders of this modern era… I would liken him to Ronald Sibanda. He’s got what Ronald had.” Beyond talent, Ndiraya emphasises Makunike’s character and sky-high confidence. That potent combination, along with his youth explains why he’s already a fixture on the senior national team. He has two senior team caps for the Warriors.

The coach outlines the full scope of Makunike’s playmaking prowess. “He’s a thinker, he’s a distributor, a ball-winner… Playing him as a 6 will be wasting his talent.”

Ndiraya boldly predicts greatness for his prodigy. “Junior is only 50 or 60% of what he can be… I strongly believe that Europe is his destination.” He believes a move to a top European league will maximise Makunike’s development. With Makunike drawing inspiration from his late uncle, Yogo Yogo, Ndiraya observes: “It runs within the family.” He sees Makunike’s potential to surpass even his uncle’s achievements.

With infectious excitement, Ndiraya sums up his belief in Junior Makunike, “The boy keeps growing, he keeps developing… Junior has made it into the senior national team which Yogo never did at his age… he’s already played…”

His journey is a testament to the enduring power of football and the unwavering spirit of a new generation carrying on a family legacy. Makunike’s supernatural connection has brought new hope to Zimbabwean football, which has struggled internationally in recent years.

But with international scouts circling Makunike’s gift may soon belong to an overseas club. Whether Yogo’s spirit will follow him across the globe, and if Makunike can maintain his brilliance away from his homeland, remains to be seen.

RELATED STORY: Five promising young players to watch in Zimbabwe 

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