IT’S remarkable that ZPC Kariba striker Limited Chikafa is still terrorising opposition defenders in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League with his pace and eye for the goal at the age of 35.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
It is, however, even more extraordinary when you consider the fact that five years ago he was on the brink of giving up the game he loves after being bedridden for almost three months with a life-threatening heart ailment.
Chikafa’s tale is an incredible story of courage, pain, misfortune and love, with an ever-increasing likelihood of the happiest of endings.
The former CAPS United gunslinger was living every local footballer’s dream when in the blink of an eye in 2011, he suffered an unimaginable nightmare after being diagnosed with a serious heart ailment.
Chikafa was told he could never play the game again after an X-ray detected some fluids in his lungs that created difficulties in his breathing.
“You know when you go through an experience like that, where you are bedridden for two and a half months, of course there comes a time where you feel like losing hope. I went through that ordeal myself and to be honest, I lost hope,” Chikafa told Standardsport in an interview.
“At one point, I didn’t want to play soccer again; even my wife was against the idea of me playing football again. She tried to persuade me to focus on other things or going back to school, but football is something I love with a passion. It’s within me and I could never imagine doing something outside the game,” he said.
The seemingly ageless striker recalls how on the verge of giving up he found inspiration from reading about other players who have previously suffered heart problems, including Nwankwo Kanu, who in 2004 underwent corrective heart surgery.
“It was only after reading stories about some other high profile players that went through the same thing that I began to realise that it wasn’t the end of the world.
“Someone like Kanu was forced out of football because of a heart ailment, but I was lucky my situation was not as serious as his and I had an opportunity to defy the odds to serve as an example that nothing is impossible,” Chikafa said.
Three years after his career was almost cut short, Chikafa completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in local football after being named one of three best players in the domestic premiership in 2014. The recognition was in honour of his brilliant campaign where his goals steered ZPC Kariba to within 90 minutes of winning the coveted premiership title in their maiden season in the top flight league.
Since then, Chikafa has continued to flourish and is one of the reasons why ZPC Kariba suddenly find themselves as one the early front runners to land the Castle Lager Premiership title.
Chikafa is, however, modest about his achievements as he attributes his recent consistency to the encouragement he continues to receive from former Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa.
Born on March 4 1981 in Mvurwi, Chikafa is the first born in a family of five. He attended Holy Rosary Secondary School which is located in Mvurwi, where he broke into the first team in his first year of high school.
“I was signed by Mvurwi United which was playing in the Division One during that time and I played for them for three years. I believe that’s when my football career really took off.”
After completing Form Four Chikafa moved to the capital where he briefly played for the now defunct Zupco Harare, before being snapped by Sporting Lions, which he helped gain promotion into the top flight league in 2001.
He, however, never kicked a ball for Sporting Lions in the Premier Soccer League, as he was immediately signed by Railstars, where he believes he made a name for himself after helping the side to the Zifa Unity Cup final.
“Even though I went on to win a number of trophies with CAPS including back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005, I still believe it was at Railstars where I played my best football. We had a dream run in the Zifa Unity Cup before narrowly losing to Masvingo United in the final on penalties. Even though Railstars went on to be relegated that season, I believe that’s when people stood up and took notice of my abilities as a player, which paved way for the move to CAPS United.”
Now in the twilight of his career, Chikafa says he is enjoying football more than ever before, spurred on by the desire to prove that he still has a lot to offer in the game despite his age.
“I’m happy that despite my age, I have continued to remain consistent at the top level to match or even better the performances of some of the so-called young players. When I’m playing against a 19-year-old or 21-year-old, if I can run faster than him or do better than what he has done in terms of the overall perfomance, then I get the fulfilment because I know nothing can keep me away from the game. I don’t know if it’s because of the age, but I’m enjoying my football more than ever before, I feel like a teenager all over again,” Chikafa said.