BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
At one point it seemed like his career was all but over.
Banned for life from taking part in any football activities at the culmination of the infamous Asiagate scandal in 2012, Warriors goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda thought his football story was over.
However, by some stroke of fortune, the ban was lifted in 2015 after he had spent a tormenting two and a half years in the dustbins of football.
And when he came back at the age of 30, he was even scared to dream big.
“Right now, I do not want to put too much pressure on myself so I am just going to focus on enjoying the game and whatever comes is a bonus. I don’t have much time left (in my career) so I just have to enjoy and enjoy it some more,” Sibanda told this publication two years ago when asked about his dreams.
Since his return four years ago, the goalkeeper — affectionately known as “Zikeeper” in football circles — has managed to revive his career, winning the league title with CAPS United in 2016 and joining a South Africa-based club.
As if that is not enough, Sibanda, who turns 35 next month is set to make his debut appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt next month.
And with first-choice goalkeeper George Chigova suspended, Sibanda is the natural choice to keep goal when the Warriors kick-off their Afcon campaign against hosts Egypt on June 21.
All he wants is to enjoy football again and everything else will be a bonus. And enjoy the game at a stage like the Afcon finals is a massive bonus.
“It’s the biggest tournament in Africa in as far football is concerned, so it’s a dream come true for me. Coming to the tournament you are meeting up with the biggest players and football teams in Africa, so it’s going to be something special,” Sibanda said.
“It’s always a pleasure, it’s always an honour to be part of the national team. It’s something that every player dreams about. As for me, I am coming from a place where I wasn’t sure about anything after what happened in the past and I can only enjoy this moment,” he added.
Sibanda was one of the 15 players and coaches banned from all football activities for their participation in the Asiagate scandal.
The player, who had carved his career to become one of the best goalkeepers in the country hit rock-bottom, returning to his hometown of Mvuma.
His story changed when he met Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries founder Walter Magaya, who began to pray for him and advised him that he would rise again.
“Everything goes back to God. I give credit to Prophet Magaya, he has been there for me even when the chips were down and when I was looked down upon. My family also helped me to pull through the difficult times,” Zikeeper said.
A few weeks before the Afcon finals begin, Sibanda is unfazed by the big names that the Warriors will face at the tournament.
In Group A, Zimbabwe will face the likes of Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah as well as Mohamed Elneny, who play for English giants Arsenal, and DRC former Everton winger Yannick Bolasie.
“Personally, I am not moved by names, remember I have played against Brazilian legends the likes of Kaka and Dani Alves, among other big name players. Football is about executing your strategy well and remember we beat DRC at home considering they had no lost there in seven years,” Sibanda said.
Sibanda’s other dream is to be able to play football until the age of 40.
“At this age every season counts for me and I am always saying one more, but as a goalkeeper I think I can play until 40,” revealed Sibanda.
After a turbulent season with Witbank Spurs in the Mvela Golden League, which saw the club relegated to a lower stage, Sibanda has received offers from a number of teams in the South African top-flight league.
“I am definitely moving from Witbank and there have been quite few offers in the PSL and I am hoping that after Afcon I can weigh the options,” he said.