Paul Gundani RIP
The Missing International
If asked to name the second County player capped at full international level the name people normally give - if they have any idea at all - is that of Paul Jones. Some might mention Ernie Simms who played for the Football Association on an Australian tour alongside County's first full international player Harry Hardy. However, reading some old County programmes recently I came across a man missing from the club's role of honour.Paul Gundani came to County on an extended trial early in November 1992. He had established a good reputation as a defender with a club in his Zimbabwean homeland called Ziscosteel in the late 80s and early 90s. Gundani turned out several times for the Reserve side in the Midland Senior League over the next four or five months without getting a first team chance due to the lack of a work permit. Paul was regularly absent during his time in a County shirt when called back for international matches by Zimbabwe.
|Paul during his County days|
Gundani was a regular in the Zimbabwean full international side - know as the Warriors - after making the step up from Under-20 level. At one time, they went 13 African Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers unbeaten under current Barbados coach Reinhard Fabisch. The squad that humbled such African football giants as Cameroon, Egypt and Angola included the more well-known names to English football fans of Bruce Grobbelaar and Peter Ndlovu. It is widely regarded as the best national soccer team ever assembled in Zimbabwe. Their dreams were unfulfilled in the long run, as they faltered in the late stages of their qualifying competitions and failed to make it to the African or World Cup finals.
Paul earned at least two caps during his time at Edgeley Park both in World Cup Qualifying games. The first came in the Angolan capital Luanda on 10 January 1993. Zimbabwe drew 1-1 with the home side thanks to a goal from Agent Sawu. Exactly a week later Zimbabwe were in the Stade Kégué in Lomé and Sawu scored again. Henry McKop added a second and hosts Togo only managed one goal in reply giving the Warriors a 2-1 win.
The local press reported his departure from Stockport in their edition published on 7 April. The Department of Employment had given its verdict on the club's application for a work permit. They stated that Gundani would be depriving homegrown players of a job, and turned down the club's application. The line-ups for Internationals in Africa are not easy to trace and it may well be that Paul made additional appearances in his spell at County with Zimbabwe in action at least three more times. Research will have to continue to see how high Paul climbs in the list of full Internationals. He was definitely in the squad for some years after returning to Zimbabwe.
There are reports that Paul played in Ethiopia for a short time, in addition to appearances in his homeland. At present, Paul was also involved in football in Zimbabwe with Lancashire Steel. The city rivals to the club he started out at in Kwekwe, appointed him as manager in October 2004. He previously worked for the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe including a role managing their team in the Zone Six Championships - an athletics competition intended to nurture young talent - in Mozambique .
Rest in Peace Paul Gundani.