AT 20, promising Zimbabwe international Cephas Chimedza (pictured) had the world at his feet, leading his new club CAPS United to their second premiership crown and being crowned the 2004 Soccer Star of the Year.
BY ALBERT MARUFU IN LONDON, ENGLAND
Sadly, eight years later, fate dictated that Chimedza, a football artist par excellence, who could even afford to kiss the ball during play, would quietly hangs up his boots in the lower rungs of European football.
To make it worse, unless he changes his mind, the former Dynamos and CAPS United utility man, who starred at the Africa Cup of Nations finals twice in Zimbabwe colours, does not see himself in football ever again.
“I am too quiet to be a coach,” said the former Marlborough High School and Churchill student from his Belgian base.
“Currently I’m doing something that has nothing to do with football.”
Chimedza was never a player shy of making tough decisions as the Ignatius Pamire-led Dynamos executive witnessed in 2004. Crossing the great divide from Dynamos to CAPS United or vice-versa used to be a cardinal sin inviting pejorative names such as “traitor”, “prostitute”, “Judas Iscariot.”
But at 19, Chimedza dared to do the unthinkable, dumping Dynamos, a club he had debuted for three years earlier in 2001.
A number of big names had done this before. Freddy Mkwesha, Sunday Chidzambwa, Eddie Muchongwe, Gift Mpariwa and Claudius Zviripayi, among others, had done the unthinkable, but most of them did so towards the end of their careers.
“The moment I joined Dynamos juniors all I ever wanted was to play for the first team. Players like Murape Murape, Desmond Maringwa and Nyasha Chazika were my role models because they came through the team’s junior structures and were doing so well in the first team. They made me believe that with hard work, I could also be there at the top.”
“Something not good was being planned at Dynamos behind my back. The Dynamos executive wanted (Black Rhinos midfielder) Max Ruza. Keegan Mumba was joining Black Rhinos and he wanted to take me with him. Dynamos wanted a swap deal. But I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny,” he said.
He added: “Charles Mhlauri (then CAPS United head coach) and club president Twine Phiri came to our house and the project they proposed to me was too good to turn down.” Thus he joined his elder brother Elton at CAPS United.
Chimedza’s 41st minute strike, which was sandwiched by Brian Badza and William Chari’s efforts in the season opener on March 7, 2004, endeared him with the green half of the capital.
They started calling him “Mai Chisamba” or “Mother” on top of his other moniker “Mboma” which he earned at Dynamos.
Sadly, a week later Gary Mashoko, Shingi Arlon, Blessing Makunike and two supporters died in a car accident on their way from a league match in Bulawayo.
However, Chimedza’s bitter-sweet moment came on May 8, 2004 at Rufaro when he starred in the 2-1 defeat of Dynamos, a club that he had supported as a child and held dear to his heart as a youngster.
The fire that CAPS United were building that season engulfed all the other teams in the league with only Highlanders managing to extinguish the flame as they inflicted on them their only defeat of the season. Ultimately CAPS United won an incredible 25 games, drawing four of their 30 games.
Chimedza’s combination with Artwell Mabhiza, Raymond Undi, the Zambian duo of Ian Bakala and Laughter Chilembe and Leonard Tsipa, among others, proved to be too much to handle for most of the teams.
Malcom Fourie, one of his coaches at Dynamos juniors, was not amused following the club’s decision to part ways with Chimedza.
“The executive told me that he was not a good player so he had to go. I knew that was not a football decision so I decided to resign in protest,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by former Dynamos captain Memory Mucherahowa, who was acting team manager when Chimedza broke into the first team in 2001.
“I knew most of the junior players because I was friends with their coaches Clayton Munemo and Biggie Zuze. I was acting team manager that time and Kalisto Pasuwa told me that, of all our juniors that time, Chimedza was the real deal. I talked to head coach Moses Chunga and he got his chance. He never looked back. I later left the club in 2002 and do not know the real story behind his joining CAPS United. However, I was disappointed when he left, but happy for him when he won the Soccer Star of the Year award,” Mucherahowa said.
Chimedza then left for Belgium in 2005 where he played for Germinal Beerschot for six months before joining Sint-Truidense VV from 2006 -2010, making 119 appearances.
Injuries, however, blighted his career resulting in early retirement at the age of 28 in 2012 while turning out for lower division side Royal Cappellen FC.
Any regrets? “Only in Cappellen can I say I didn’t enjoy my football because I was less than 60% fit and it was a bit lower division,” said Chimedza, whose six-year-old son Cephas (Junior) is closely following in his father’s footsteps.
Chimedza believes that Zimbabwe could have performed better at the Africa Cup of Nations with adequate preparations.