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Benza —The professor, the footballer, the parliamentarian…

Innocent Benza has set and broken his own records over the past five years.

And he is still in the same trajectory.

The reserved 51-year-old Herentals president and striker spent the first 44 years of his life outside the public eye.

Despite running the sprawling Herentals Group of Colleges and Schools, Benza only rose to prominence when he made his Premiership debut at the age of 46 following the elevation of his team in 2018.

He earned plaudits and rebuke in equal measure but he is too passionate to consider the downside of things when it comes to football.

That he plays alongside his son Tinotenda-a first in the local Premiership pushes him more.

No one before him has ever played Premiership football at the age of 46. And each year after 2018, he has been breaking the records he sets at the beginning of each term.

At 51, he is arguably the oldest professional footballer in Africa.

He also remains the oldest goal scorer in the local Premiership having fired one past Chapungu in 2019 when defying everything including the second season syndrome.

And last week, he became the first footballer in this country to be a parliamentary.

Benza contested for the Mutasa Central Constituency in the harmonised elections held last Wednesday and he came out tops.

Three days later, he was leading The Students in their match-day 20 fixture against Manica Diamonds at Gibbo.

Herentals failed to spice their proprietor’s celebrations after settling for just a point against a team chasing for the championship.

Benza played for 45 minutes in that game with players from both sides saluting him after playing his first match as a parliamentarian elect.

“It gives me great joy and pride to have had what’s in my plate right now,” Benza said.

“It has been my dream to be a parliamentarian one day. I am very humbled for seeing it through.

“I would like to salute people in Mutasa Central Constituency for voting for me. I can’t thank them enough.

“And on Sunday, I was very humbled to see Herentals and Manica Diamonds players congratulating me during our league match. We would have wanted to win that game but a draw wasn’t that bad after all”.

Benza, who bankrolls the Premiership team, Herentals Queens, Herentals U20 in the first division and Herentals D2 sides has also established another Division 2 based in his constituency.

Perhaps it is this selflessness that won him the hearts of people in Mutasa Central.

“I don’t really expect rewards when I do things. I love sport and draw a lot of joy seeing people enjoying themselves playing sport,” Benza said.

“We have several professional teams and we have also established academies for different sport codes at our schools and colleges.

“My hope is to see sport growing so much that Zimbabwe becomes a powerhouse in more than just one sport code.

“I believe that sport is a very big industry that can employ hundreds of thousands if not millions of people if run well.

“I am going to give sport a voice in parliament and hopefully things will move the way sport stakeholders want to see them moving”.

Benza said he is not going to hang up his playing boots as yet.

“I have said this before. I am going to play football for as long as my legs can carry me. I love this game so much and I train every day to condition my body for this game.

“I am not resting as yet. I am enjoying the game now more than ever before. Football is something I grew up playing and I am still in the game”.

Benza, who is also an academic has provided four assists this season.

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