Seventeen-year-old Zimbabwe-born Cameroonian footballer Cabrel Gilles Happi last month toured Germany with a local football academy and caught the eye of scouts from German giants Werder Bremen.
By Brian Nkiwane
This was not the first time the St Georges College forward has generated interest in a foreign land. In 2010, a mere 12-year-old Happi impressed French giants Paris St Germain when he went for a summer training camp. However, nothing materialised out of it owing to his young age.
Circumstances surrounding his birth foretold that the bouncing baby boy would grow up to be a footballer. Even Polish Christine Grabowski, the midwife who received the little bundle of joy into the world at Avenues Clinic back in October 1998, made a prophecy on the boy.
Casting an imposing figure, standing at 1,8 metres and a weight of 72 kg, Happi is a direct opposite of his short and stout father Gilbert.
Standardsport caught up with the Sports Avenue Academy apprentice who chronicled his journey thus far.
“I think I was just destined to be a footballer. The fact that I am a Cameroonian — a football powerhouse — and the events surrounding my birth all pointed to one thing — that I would end up a footballer one way or the other,” said the emerging football star.
“My mother tells me that I kicked all the time when she was pregnant with me and I am told even the nurse who helped my mother deliver said ‘I think we have a footballer here’ because of the way that I kicked when I was born,” Happi continued.
As the boy grew up, he developed an eye only for one toy — the soccer ball — and the father took it upon himself to be his son’s first coach.
It was at St Michael’s Preparatory School where he was enrolled for his elementary education that Happi began to show glimpses of football talent.
The defining moment of his football career was when he was in Grade Four at Hartman House and he scored 10 goals in a match the school went on to win 12-0. By that time, the player was already in the books of BN Academy.
Then came the moment he went to France for a football summer camp.
“In 2010, I was chosen to go to France for a summer camp as the team captain. I impressed during our stay there and French football giants Paris St Germain wanted me, but I could not stay because I was only 12,” he said.
Soon he was selected into the proposed Zimbabwe Under-14 developmental squad. He scored the only goal that separated Harare province against rivals Bulawayo in the final of the event.
“He scored a beauty just from the centre line. Until today, I still believe that was his greatest performance,” his father Gilbert said.
The team was to later visit Germany under the VW programme, but Happi could not make it as he was one year older than the age required.
Having failed to go to school due to financial reasons, Happi decided to join Division Two side Africa United just for the sake of keeping fit. He was back at school in the second term and his dominance in sport was revived.
It was the formation of Sports Avenue Football Academy, headed by former Warriors fringe player Edzai Kasinauyo and his business partner Nhamo Tutisani, that provided him with yet another opportunity to showcase his talent in Germany.
A proven goal scorer in high school football circles, Happi travelled to Hamburg, Germany three weeks ago.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the last trip to Germany. Former Zimbabwe coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels who organised the trip was pleased and my coaches were also pleased.
“Werder Bremen, whose academy we played against, showed interest in me and had to send their scout to watch me play, which was an honour for me because it shows that there is something special about me,” he said.
Kasinauyo, the Avenues Academy project founder, confirmed that the German clubs Werder Bremen and SV Hamburger were impressed by Happi’s talent.
He said Werder Bremen would be monitoring the young striker’s development going forward and a future move could not be ruled out.
Newspapers in Stade, where Sports Avenue Academy was based during the two-week tour, touted young Happi as the next best thing to happen in Zimbabwean football.
Although local clubs are yet to know of Happi’s talent, the Lower Six student is already pondering which national team he will represent when he finally gets to the top.
“I love Zimbabwe. It is my home but I cannot run away from the fact that I am Cameroonian. I am undecided about who I am going to represent at international level,” he said.
The boy is set for a trial stint with both German clubs in six months’ time.