WARRIORS star Talent Chawapiwa has made a storming start to the new season with Baroka FC in the South African Premier Soccer League, which has seen his ratings soar in recent weeks.
BY HENRY MHARA
He has received two man-of-the match accolades from his team’s first three matches of the season, including in the game against the mighty Kaizer Chiefs.
The Polokwane-based team has made a scintillating start to the season under new Zambian coach Wedson Nyirenda, as they sit conformably on fifth position on the log standings.
After a defeat to Ovidy Karuru’s Amazulu in their league opener, they recovered to defeat Matthew Rusike’s Cape Town City in the second match before holding Khama Billiat’s Kaizer Chiefs last week.
One man, who has been at the heart of this early success for the modest club, is none other than Chawapiwa.
Capped with man-of-the match accolades in the last two matches, the speedy winger has been lavished with praise.
Nyirenda, who was in charge of Zambia when Chipolopolo lost to Zimbabwe 3-1 in the Cosafa Cup final last year, with Chawapiwa playing a blinder in the match and deservedly picking the man-of-the match award, is excited to have united with the Warriors star − for a common cause this time around.
The highly-regarded gaffer has been captivated by the stellar performances of his star this term and after an electric showing, especially against Chiefs, the compliments have been swelling.
In fact, Nyirenda, who joined the club at the start of the season, believes Chawapiwa is the finest player in the South African Premiership, ahead of the league’s superstar Billiat.
Speaking on SuperSport’s weekly football programme Thursday Live with Robert Marawa, hosted by Robert Marawa, Nyirenda stated: “Talent is a big boy in football, he is a massive player. I remember very well he killed me when I was coach for Chipolopolo in the Cosafa. We played Zimbabwe in the final, he scored when we were 1-1. So when I heard that we have a player from Zimbabwe here at Baroka, I asked who is he? When they said Talent, I said thank God I have a special player. At least in a team when you have a special player like him, the coach will feel comfortable.”
Chawapiwa was the star of the show for the Warriors in that tournament played in Rustenburg, restoring the team’s lead with a super individual goal after Zambian Lubia Mundia had cancelled out Knox Mutizwa’s opener. Ocean Mushure scored the third goal, from a Chawapiwa assist.
Asked by Marawa what he is doing as the coach to keep Chawapiwa grounded, without necessarily eliminating the natural talent that the forward possesses, Nyirenda responded: “There isn’t much for me to tell Talent to do except to just keep him within the framework of the team and the way we want to play. Otherwise, you don’t have to minimise him, because you lose him (you lose his flair). What we have done is to give him freedom. We are pushing him to do it more because that is what defenders don’t want, a striker who comes on to them at full speed, going forward and behind them. They (defenders) don’t want that.”
Nyirenda is surprised by Chawapiwa’s level of talent and confessed he is shocked at some of the things that the player often does at training.
“Only two days ago, at training, I asked him which your strongest foot is because I don’t know. He can carry the ball with his left foot at high speed and he can change it to the right at the same time, you cannot know which leg he is going to shoot with. So he is a very dangerous player.”
Excitement over Chawapiwa spilled over further when Marawa’s co-host Thato Moeng also joined in on the praise, having watched the player developing since he joined the club last season, where his slick showing has seen him attracting interests from the league’s Big Three − Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns.
“I remember when Talent came in to Baroka, when he was signed and people were wondering what he was about and the first game he had, he was absolutely fantastic. He didn’t seem like a player who didn’t know his teammates, who didn’t know anything about Baroka. He certainly is a player who whenever he is on the field of play, you know you will get the best out of him. We saw that again against Kaizer Chiefs, he deserved the man-of-the match accolade.
“He was working well with his teammates, so he is also a team player who manages to make sure that I can really play and communicate with the entire team and not be a man on my own which he could be if he wants to be because he is so talented, that is why he has that name, right?”
The former Harare City player is expected to play a huge part in the Warriors’ Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying campaign, having led the team to Cosafa Cup glory in two successive years.
Chawapiwa is part of the 28-men squad that has been called into camp for Zimbabwe’s Afcon Group G qualifier away to Congo Brazzaville next month.
But before he can think of that, he has a little matter − the Polokwane derby against George Chigova’s Polokwane City − to deal with this afternoon, where another stellar performance and the compliments could reach unprecedented levels.