The moment one mentions the name Tichaona Chapfika, the response from most football fans would be “that Dynamos referee”.
By Michael Kariati
That was the man. He was proud enough to admit that despite being a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League referee, he was an ardent Dynamos Football Club supporter.
But give him the whistle when Dynamos were playing and Chapfika would handle the game in a professional manner. Even when Dynamos lost, there would be praises in the manner in which the outspoken businessman would have handled the game.
One football fan jokingly said that Chapfika once threatened the pint-sized Dynamos captain Murape Murape with a beating if he failed to convert a penalty that had been given. But the referee always responded to such jokes, “These are jokes. They also do the same to Chinotimba [Joseph].”
Chinotimba is the Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Buhera South whom members of the public constantly make fun of.
On the day Chapfika retired, the crowd at Chibuku Stadium was left in stitches when soon after the game he took off his Fifa referee’s shirt and threw it to the supporters seated at the cheapest seats in the stadium, commonly known as the “Rest of the Ground”.
The reason was that he wanted to give one of the supporters a memento to take home for the future remembrance of the man who had been at the middle of the field for seven years.
“I am a celebrity,” he would say.
From that sunny Saturday afternoon in 2002 when he appeared on the scene to 2009 when he retired soon after the Kiglon and Highlanders match via seven years on the Fifa panel, Chapfika remained a principled man who lived by the rules.
At times, he was also theatrical. He would do things to attract attention to himself instead of the 22 players on the field of play.
He would run with such aplomb as if he was the one with the ball instead of the whistle. That was Tichaona Chapfika for you.
Sadly, Mablazo passed on at his Chitungwiza home last Thursday after a long illness.
Former Dynamos secretary, club chairman and now the chairman of the club’s marketing committee, Ignatius Pamire speaks effusively of the late referee: “He was a colourful character who always wanted to hog the limelight,” said Pamire.
Pamire said Zimbabwean football will never be the same without the man. “Our football needs as many characters as Chapfika. But unfortunately, we do not have [those]. We will miss all those exciting days we used to be with him,” said Pamire.
Chapfika was also so proud of himself that he referred to himself as his own favourite referee. “I am my own man,” he used to say. And surely he was.
When not on refereeing duty, Chapfika made it a habit to enter the stadium when most, if not everyone else, was seated in readiness for the start of a match so that he would attract attention, or get the greetings or cheers he so dearly loved.
The former chairman of the Zimbabwe Referees Committee and former Zifa board member Gladmore Muzambi remembers the man. “We knew he was a Dynamos supporter but there was nothing wrong in assigning him to Dynamos matches,” said Muzambi.
“He would handle the game in the same way a foreign referee would — as if he did not know who was playing,” added Muzambi.
However, some have made reference to Chapfika as the man that musician Alick Macheso sang about in one of his songs but that is not the case. Although Chapfika had at one time been Macheso’s doorman, this time, the singer was referring to MacDonald Chapfika of amateur football club Highdon Raylton who was also a music promoter.
“VaChapfika tambaiwo. Tambai. [Can Chapfika join in the dance],” sang Macheso.
For the record, MacDonald Chapfika used to include Macheso in most of his music promotional shows, especially those that involved foreign artists.
That aside, Tichaona Chapfika was his own man. When signaling for a penalty kick or a free kick he made sure that his gesture was understood by both sets of players while at the same time entertaining the fans on the stands.
Sadly, we will not live to see those gestures again.
He also gave advice on football to those who required it and Zimbabwe Football Association chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze says they have lost a man who did a lot in trying to develop the game.
Mashingaidze says they have lost Chapfika at a time they were planning to have him in one of the structures at the headquarters of Zimbabwean football.
“It is a tragedy that we have lost Chapfika at a time we had big plans for him at Zifa. We will miss the man and his good vision for football,” said Mashingaidze.
Chapfika was 44 years at the time of his death.
But the sportsman, businessman-cum politician will never be forgotten by the people he led as a councillor, nor the football fans who adored his unique style on and off the field of play.
His name will live for as long as football and Dynamos continue to exist in Zimbabwean sport. Rest In Peace Mablazo.