ATTACKING midfielder Perfect Chikwende has paid tribute to his former coach at FC Platinum, Norman Mapeza, for the role he played in shaping his career for the big stage.
The 27-year-old bade farewell to the Zvishavane side after signing a two-year deal with Tanzanian football giants Simba SC just before the transfer deadline on Friday night.
Chikwende, who won the league title and the Castle Super Cup with FC Platinum in 2019 before football was frozen out by the coronavirus pandemic, said he felt Zvishavane had become his home.
“FC Platinum had become my home. I’m grateful to the entire family for the support rendered to me for the duration of my stay there. Special mention goes to the head coach, Norman Mapeza.
“It was therefore a very tough decision to make seeing also the team is in competitive football in the region. The club helped me to be the player I am today,” said Chikwende.
Chikwende caught the eye of the Tanzanians when he played a starring role in FC Platinum’s 1-0 win over Simba SC in the first leg of the CAF Champions League first round tie at the National Sports Stadium last month.
He was also on target when FC Platinum beat seasoned campaigners Costa do Sol of Mozambique 2-0 in the second leg of the preliminary round tie, to secure a 4-1 aggregate win for the Zvishavane side.
Simba were determined to get his signature despite interests from two rival clubs in Tanzania. The attacking midfielder is the only player who was signed by Simba during the transfer window which closed at midnight last Friday.
However, he will not be eligible to play in the group stage of the Champions League since he has featured for FC Platinum in the preliminary round.
CAF regulations say: “During the same year a player is in principle only eligible to play for one and the same club in the CAF inter-club competitions.” And this disqualifies Chikwende.
Simba were drawn in Group A alongside Al-Ahly of Egypt, AS Vita from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudanese giants Al-Merrikh.
This means Chikwende will be used in the domestic league where Simba are gunning for their 22nd Mainland Premier League title. The side has dominated the last three seasons.
At the age of 27 years, this is a late breakthrough in Chikwende’s career and he hopes for more opportunities.
“It is a huge milestone in my career, having only played in Zimbabwe for my entire career so far. With this move, I feel it will open doors for me for other future opportunities.
“I feel so excited. Simba are a big club. The team has got some good players and there is a lot of competition which I hope will improve my career. I will fight so that I get to my best.
“It also requires me to put in more work and dedication so as to achieve more. Hard work pays off.
“My goal is to play in all matches for as long as I am fit, leave a mark in the Tanzanian league and beyond. It’s an opportunity for advancement. This opportunity has presented a stepping stone in my career and with hard work, who knows I can achieve even greater things.
“I would like to thank the club for this offer and the fans for the warm welcome. I already feel at home. I will always do my best to assist the club achieve its goals along with my team-mates.
“I can’t promise that I will be scoring goals every time but I can promise that I will do to the best of my ability,” said Chikwende.
Before joining the Pure Platinum family in 2019, Chikwende also played for Black Eagles in 2014, Black Boots in 2015 and Bulawayo Chiefs from 2016-2018.
At FC Platinum he won the Castle Lager Premier League title in 2019 and the Castle Lager Challenge Cup last year.
Chikwende was strongly linked with Simba’s rival club Azam FC but the ambitious side reportedly has filled its foreign quota and cannot accommodate more imports. But since football in Zimbabwe is currently on the backburner because of the coronavirus pandemic, a way out had to be found. Player intermediary George Deda facilitated the move.
“Everything happened so fast from the time the player arrived here in Tanzania. There were three clubs vying for his signature but in the end it was Simba who prevailed,” said Deda, who was speaking from Dar es Salaam yesterday.
“Many people might wonder, because of my strong links with Azam, why he ended up in the lions’ den, it’s a story for another day.
“They were many twists and turns, people walking out of the talks due to how both parties valued the player but with just under an hour before the window closed a deal was struck between the negotiating parties in Dar and the player’s (FC Platinum) chairman, Mr Smartfin Techu.”
Deda said the deal was lucrative although he could not reveal the figures involved. Chikwende joined other Zimbabweans in Tanzania who include the Azam trio of Never Tigere, Prince Dube and Bruce Kangwa, whose moves were also facilitated by the same agent.
“Zimbabwean players have not disappointed here. They are hard workers and I have no doubt Perfect will be the perfect addition to the Simba family.
“Tanzania has not just been a choice of Zimbabwean players only. All of Africa, it’s now the focus. There are more than 70 foreigners in Tanzania with the big three contributing more than 30 players to the equation.
“I think remuneration wise, Tanzania now generally pays far much better than our preferred choice of destiny, which is South Africa. Look at the problems at Golden Arrows, Chippa and Bloemfontein Celtics. Players are getting R50 000 before tax, no winning bonus, no accommodation. So those dynamics are playing a major role,” said Deda.