HomeSportChipezeze’s meteoric rise to the top

Chipezeze’s meteoric rise to the top

As a boy, Warriors and Chicken Inn goal minder Elvis Chipezeze was overly impressed by legendary Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ exploits in goal and decided he would emulate him.

By Munyaradzi Madzokere

soccer

Casillas revered in Spanish football circles and around the world captained Spain in their World Cup triumph in 2010 and two European Cups in 2008 and 2012, among a host of other titles for both club and country.

However, Chipezeze’s career took a bit longer to take off than Casillas’ — he is yet to win as many trophies — but his modest attempt has made him one of the best goalkeepers in the land.

“Casillas was my role model when I was young. I always wanted to play like him but now that I am older, I want to leave my own legacy and be a role model for other young goalkeepers in this country,”Chipezeze said in an interview with Standardsport.

It has been a roller-coaster one year for Chipezeze after an epic 2015 season which saw Chicken Inn win the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League crown, with the athletic goalkeeper, who was on top of his game, emerging the best in his trade.

Only last week the Gamecocks won the Independence Cup following a 2-1 win over Highlanders and the 26-year-old footballer is enjoying every minute of it.

“I am enjoying this Independence Cup success. it’s a great achievement for both club and for me as an individual. I know that some day when I have hung up my boots, I am going to look back and tell my children all about it.”

After spending two full seasons warming the bench at Chicken Inn, as well as part of the 2014 football calendar, he was at one time frustrated and contemplated moving to lower division teams.

But a difficult start to the 2014 season for the reigning top flight league champions saw coach Joey Antipas rotating his squad in search of a change of fortune.

Chipezeze finally got his chance that same year against home town team Chapungu as Chicken Inn recorded a crucial 2-1 victory and ever since that day, he has clung on to the goalkeeper’s jersey.

“All I can say to other footballers out there is, never give up on your dreams. Your chance to show what you are capable of will surely come and as for me, I never stopped working hard. At one time I thought of quitting but someone advised me to be patient and right now I’m one of the best in the country,” he said.

On December 4 2015, Chipezeze cut a bubbly figure as he walked on the red carpet at the Soccer Star of the year awards in Harare, where he won the goalkeeper’s gong.

This is a Gweru-bred lad whose humble, yet uncertain, beginnings saw him hop from one club to the next in search of a place to call home. He now sits comfortably among the best players in the land.

“It was a night that I will never forget. It’s every footballer’s dream to win cups and individual accolades and it’s a great feeling when it finally happens,” the former Mkoba High 1 student said.

Born on March 11 1990, Chipezeze began his football career as a junior at Bristol City in Gweru’s Mkoba before moving to Red Cross in the Midlands Division Two league at the age of 17.

He would go on to turn out for Division One side Gweru Pirates where he spent two years.

In 2011, Chipezeze joined the ambitious and now defunct Zimbabwe Alloys sponsored project Zimall and it was at the end of that particular season that Chicken Inn — then under the tutelage of Philani “Beefy” Ncube — started courting him.

“We played Chicken Inn in a friendly match at the end of the season in which they gained promotion into the premier league. I made up my mind that I would take the opportunity to impress and I did. I joined them the following season,” Chipezeze recalled.

Interestingly, Chipezeze was spotted by Ncube but it was the late Zimbabwe legend Adam Ndlovu who then brought him to the Gamecocks fold.

Coming from a family that supports Dynamos, it is ironic that to date Chipezeze’s best recorded performance came against the Harare giants in the league last year after which he received rave reviews.

Joey Antipas’ charges shamed the then defending league champions 3-0 at Rufaro stadium last year in their first match of the season.

After the match, all the then Dynamos coach David Mandigora could say was, “we tried our best, their goalkeeper was just brilliant today.”

“For me, that performance stands out as my best. Dynamos are a big club and so is Highlanders and if you play well against such teams, it boosts your confidence. I also come from a family that supports Dynamos and I know that performance hurt a number of them, but what could I do? I was at work,” he chuckled.

With his team consistent in the title charge, so were his performances between the sticks and eventually Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa took notice of him.

Chipezeze was part of the team that drew one all with Guinea in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Rufaro and also the team that represented Zimbabwe at the Chan Championships in Rwanda although he is yet to make an appearance.

Currently at the prime of his career, Chipezeze hopes that one day he can break into European leagues, preferably in La Liga, before he retires. And if dreams can come true, it has to be for the Spanish champions Barcelona.

It’s quite early in the new season and Chicken Inn are already showing signs that they remain a class above the rest after sending Dynamos and Highlanders to the cleaners on their way to the Uhuru Cup triumph.

Chipezeze reckons the unity in the team has been the formula to their recent spate of success.

“We are playing the way we are because we have unity as a team. We all play for each other in the team and it helps us grind out results, even when we are not at our best. So far, we have played only two games in the season and we are looking to defend our title the same way we won it last, that is through team work.

Chipezeze is the oldest in a family of two and his younger brother, Evans, also plays football as a goalkeeper in Division One. He is married to Marvelous and the couple is blessed with a son, Junior.

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