The car accident which happened as he was coming from a friend’s birthday party in the early hours of March 11 could have claimed CAPS United captain Hardlife Zvirekwi’s life. The angels’ light, however, shined on him and he survived, losing only his left hand.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
While many thought it was the end of the career for the 2016 Soccer Star of the Year, last week Zvirekwi made a sensational comeback with a three-minute cameo against Harare City.
Zvirekwi officially stepped onto the turf, to deafening applause at Rufaro, and in a moving gesture of respect, Stephen Makatuka gave the captaincy back to the rightful owner.
“It was part of the plan. He has always been the leader of this group. It’s unfortunate that he was not participating because of the injury but when he is back, he assumes his responsibilities as the leader. Everyone knows that,” CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe told The Sports Hub.
It appears as if it was only the outside world that still pitied Zvirekwi in light of his predicament.
For the CAPS United family, their leader was back and working ever so hard to make sure he would be ready for the second half of the season.
They became blind to his handicap, but drew inspiration from his story, his attitude and character.
Barely four weeks after the accident, which resulted in the amputation of his left hand, he was bak in training and has not missed even one session, according to Chitembwe.
“He has always been one of us. The good thing is he is back in the team, back to what he loves to do and I am very impressed by the great tenacity he has shown. I am not sure many players would come back from such a situation. He is an inspiration to many people and players. I am sure the team will derive inspiration from Hardy going forward,” said Chitembwe
“He only missed training the first month after the accident and since then he has not missed a training session and that tells you that his mental attitude is very strong,” he added.
Chitembwe hailed the CAPS United players and staff for encouraging Zvirekwi and making him believe that it was not over.
“It was not only my responsibility, but the whole team supported him. But all the credit goes to him for having managed that process. We could only give him support. He needed encouragement just telling him that he is still good enough and has a lot to offer not only to CAPS United but the whole football fraternity,” the Green Machine gaffer said.
Zvirekwi could well be the only amputee to play professional football in the local premiership era following his astonishing comeback.
While there have been doubts on whether he is eligible to play without part of the arm against full-bodied athletes, a number of respected experts have allayed those fears in the absence of clear Fifa legislation.
“Football is not discriminatory like that. If a person is able to play and makes the grade in his team, he can play.
What’s important is whether his doctors have given him the greenlight to play or not, so I don’t think there is any problem,” top medical doctor in the football fraternity Edward Chagonda said.
The only thing prohibited is playing with a prosthetic forearm as it may pose a serious danger to other players.
But in a familiar case, in 2013 Fifa decided that Austrian footballer, the late Martin Hofbauer, could continue to play competitive football with prosthetics after he lost his right lower leg due to cancer.
In other sporting disciplines individual athletes such as swimmer Natalie du Toit and track athlete Oscar Pistorius, both South Africans, have competed as equals against able-bodied athletes at various events including the Olympic Games.
Speaking of his remarkable return last week, Zvirekwi felt it was nothing short of a miracle.
“I had faith that God is still in the business of making miracles and with Him all things are still possible. It was a fantastic feeling to be back on the pitch. I was so happy the coach gave me the opportunity, had faith in me by fielding me again,’’ he told a local publication.
“During the rehabilitation process, even from the day I got amputated, I stayed positive, saw things in a different way from the manner others were seeing it.”
The utility player is reminiscent of the late former VFB Stuttgart star Robert Schlienz, who had had his left forearm amputated following a horrific car accident in August 1948, but made a dramatic comeback four months later.
Schlienz went on to captain Stuttgart leading them to two German championships in the 1950s while he was also capped three times by West Germany.