Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau
AFTER mysteriously shrugging off a career-threatening injury to come back to the field of play not only with an amputated palm but with a cloud hanging over his head over agility concerns, Caps United captain Hardlife Zvirekwi continues to prove that he is a larger-than-life figure, leading from the front to help his team register their first win in the second half of the Castle Lager Premiership soccer season over Black Rhinos on Saturday at Rufaro.
For a player whose footballing future appeared doomed following that horrific car accident, which left his palm severed before its subsequent amputation in March, to have reported for training within three months was some form of shocking news.
But not only did he attempt to come back to the game, but he successfully did so and coach Lloyd Chitembwe, whose faith in the 31-year-old is undoubted, recommended his registration for the second half of the Premiership marathon.
Having made an emotional bow against Harare City at Rufaro a couple of weeks ago after being introduced as a late substitute, Zvirekwi showed some glimpses of that old player who two years ago forced his way into that exclusive squad to join the likes of Shackman Tauro and George Shaya after he won the Soccer Star of the Year gong.
And on Saturday, playing high up, in the right-attack position in front of Kudzi Nyamupfukudza, the former Warriors man showed he is still the Hardlife of old, shrugging off, just like what he did with the injury, balance concerns to illuminate the scene in a high intensity game that was characterised by tough tackling, swift transitional play and sometimes power play.
The Green Machine had gone for three matches in the second half of the season without not just winning but scoring and they needed to respond to keep pace with the leading pack.
Having lost one of their trusted gunslingers Simba Nhivi to Ngezi Platinum, all eyes were on the hardworking John Zhuwawu, who fluffed quite a couple of easy-to-score chances, as well as new acquisition Mitchel Katsvairo, who started on the bench.
Zvirekwi, however, took it upon himself three minutes into the match, making a perfect dummy-run to create space for Brian Muzondiwa who brilliantly cut back for his captain to tap-in what turned out to be the winning goal for Caps United.
“I give it all to God and to my coaches, in fact to everyone for being there for me,” said Zvirekwi.
“It’s always a good feeling when a player scores, so I am naturally happy to have scored my first goal this season after coming back from injury.
“It’s not all about me though, as I have my teammates to credit for creating the chance for me. On that occasion when I scored, Brian Muzondiwa did well, weaving his way past a thicket of Black Rhinos defenders before laying the ball for me.
“We always train this at our training sessions, so what you saw is as a result of team effort right from our technical team.
“I am very happy for having been able to come back from a horrific injury which could have claimed my career, in fact my life and being able to play the game I like the most.
“I will continue to work hard every day as I am trying to improve every time.
“I always want to thank my coaches for the faith they continue to put in me. That motivates me to want to do even better.
“At the end of the day it’s not about me but about the team. We want to finish the marathon on a high note so we have to keep pushing,” Zvirekwi said.
He also said Makepekepe need to keep pace between them and the leading pack if they are to finish the marathon on a decent position.
“The leading pack are winning and we also have to win and see where we will be at the end of the season.
“I would like to thank my teammates who are supportive of me but I think it’s now time to forget whatever happened to me and focus on my goals as a player as well as our goals as a team.
“What matters now is the way forward and after finding the back of the net for the first time this season, I just hope I will maintain the form as I want to help my team achieve their set objectives.”
Zvirekwi has charmed the international community by merely bouncing back from that traumatic setback and he looks geared to set quite a number of records.