HomeSportDanny Phiri— Zim’s own ‘Deco’ version

Danny Phiri— Zim’s own ‘Deco’ version

RETIRED Portuguese footballer, Anderson Luís de Souz, popularly known as “Deco” may never have exhibited his skills on local pitches, but Chicken Inn midfielder Danny Phiri has taken a shot at becoming the local embodiment of the former Barcelona and Chelsea star.


Though he may be a far cry from the Portuguese star in terms of skill and talent, Phiri’s raw talent exhibited at the just-ended Africa Nations Championships (Chan) in South Africa left cynics without doubt that he can ably carry the weight that comes with the nickname Deco.

The 25-year-old assumed the moniker while playing for Railstars Under-15.

While the original Deco went on to win the Uefa Champions League with FC Porto (2004) and Barcelona two years later, Phiri is still learning to crawl, having just graduated into the Warriors set up, albeit the second string side.

However, with the usual suspects for the anchorman role in the Warriors set up Esrom Nyandoro and Tinashe Nengomasha’s international careers coming to an end, the Chicken Inn midfielder is heavily knocking on the door.

Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Willard Katsande had seemed the heir apparent to the throne, which in the past has been the preserve of such great names as Benjamin Nkonjera, but from obscurity, Phiri has emerged.

For two consecutive seasons, modest side Chicken Inn have finished fourth and sixth respectively, with all the accolades going to defender Felix Chindungwe, Kuda Mahachi and Tendai Ndoro.

While German mentor Klaus-Dieter Pagels saw Phiri’s potential, he did not hand him the responsibility for the crucial anchorman’s role. Instead, he chose Sweden-based Archford Gutu, who is known more as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker.

However, the just-ended Chan tournament in South Africa where Zimbabwe finished fourth, heralded the emergence of a midfield general — Phiri — whom coach Ian Gorowa entrusted with the dirty job.

A midfield hardman whose exploits are exhibited by the numerous bookings, Phiri has asserted himself as a serious contender in Gorowa’s squad for the 2015 African Nations Cup qualification.

The Warriors and Chicken Inn hardman’s career has however not been rosy as he had to fight against odds to be noticed and to excel in his country’s colours.

Not only did the 25-year-old battle with the loss of his main inspiration, his father, at 18, he also had to contend with being mistaken for former Dynamos, Njube Sundowns and Highlanders defender Danisa Phiri.

But, in all this, John 14:1 which reads, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me”, is a Bible verse which keeps inspiring this unsung hero.

“I am a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church and with God in your heart, everything is possible. It was not easy to be where I am today. When my father [Leonard] died in 2007 I was devastated and did not know what life would be like. Having played for Tongogara in Division One, he used to give me advice on the proper conduct of a footballer. My mother raised me and I had to pick myself up,” he said.

However, it is being confused with Danisa Phiri that irks him the most as he wants people to see him for who he is.

“Some fans and soccer commentators refer to me as Danisa Phiri. I heard that in the friendly match against South Africa, the commentators said I am 34-years-old which is Danisa’s age. Danisa is no-longer playing football and I am not even related to him,” he said.

Phiri said the Chan tournament where the Warriors finished fourth was an eye opener.

“I learnt a lot from this tournament. Football is just the same everywhere and our level of play is better than most leagues in Africa. I used to get called to the national team and never got a chance to play. Coach Gorowa told me to believe in myself,” said Phiri, who played in all the six Chan matches the Warriors were involved in.

He however, expressed disappointment at losing to Libya in the semi-finals of the tournament.

“This is a tournament that we were supposed to win. Losing through a penalty shootout is painful, but that is the way God planned it,” he said.

Despite the talent and skill that he exhibited in South Africa, Phiri says no club had approached him yet, even locally.

“Chicken Inn is a good club with high ambitions, but my wish is to play for a bigger club like Highlanders. I really want to play for Highlanders, but I will wait for the club to approach me. My contract with Chicken Inn expires on December 31 this year,” said the father of three-year-old Romeo.

Phiri, who has played all positions save for being a striker, started his career at the now defunct AmaZulu before joining Railstars.

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