Charity Mucucuti’s image jumps out at you larger than life on the poster for the September 2016 Africa Cup Women’s Rugby 7s tournament. On it, she is mid-stride, rugby ball under one arm with a menacing expression on her face. The caption reads, “Fiercely Leading the Pack – Capt. Charity Mucucuti!” Each time the ball landed in her arms, the crowd screamed, “Go Charity!”Which is all in order, except no one calls her Charity.
“Nobody, not even my mum calls me Charity. Not even my boss.” I used our first interview to ask her a question I had had for years – how did she get the nickname ‘Chocky’?
“I got it from Regina … from basketball. We used to get money for bus fare and then I would use the money to buy chocolates.” Mystery solved. Chocky was a star basketball player through school and represented both the junior and senior national schools team. At only 15 years old, she also started playing club basketball for Cameo Basketball Club.
Chocky’s move to rugby was so improbable that she still laughs eight years later when she tells the story. Basketball season had just ended and the Old Hararians (OH) rugby coach invited her to try out for their team. She attended rugby practice that Tuesday and Wednesday and was surprised soon after to receive a call to try out for the national team. After attending the national team trials on Thursday, Chocky was selected for the national team which toured Zambia that same weekend.
Always modest, she plays down this incredible series of events. What Chocky doesn’t say is that she is a talented athlete. She is tall – 1.78m – and fast – and strong. But above all, she has the grit and the heart, which separates the gifted athletes from the successful ones. During a city league rugby final between OH and Harare Sports Club, Chocky had a collision with a team mate soon after the kickoff. She left the field and received four stitches (to the face), then got up, went back into the game and scored the first try. Chocky plays the ‘prop’ position – a position commonly played by slower players – something her opponents realize – usually painfully – doesn’t apply to her.
At 32 years of age she is the most experienced member and the pillar of a youthful national team. These traits have led to her being granted the national team captaincy in June for the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ireland. It was a good move. In the two tournaments she has captained the side, Zimbabwe has moved up the African rankings, from number 4 to number 3, behind South Africa and Kenya.
“I still want to play both (club and national team). I still think I’m strong enough to make the national team.” Her gutsy performance at this last tournament proved that the only people who should be worried about her strength are her opponents.
Image: Rugby player Charity ‘Chocky’ Mucuti on the field.
Image Credit: Farai Mudzingwa