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By Daniel Nhakaniso
Spanish Tercera (Third) División side Vélez Club de Fútbol might be a long way from the bright lights of La Liga, but goalkeeper Martin Mapisa hopes it will act as a springboard towards reaching his goal of rubbing shoulders with some of the best football players in the world.
Although known as the Third División in Spain, the Tercera is the fourth level of the Spanish football league system behind the Segunda Division B, Segunda División (also called La Liga 2) and the top-tier La Liga.
The 20-year-old rising Zimbabwean star will be lifting the country’s flag in the league this year after signing a two-year contract with Vélez Club de Fútbol on Tuesday from seventh-tier club CD Almuñécar City.
Mapisa, who was officially unveiled by the club together with German striker Mathias Comes, immediately revealed his ambition to keep moving up the ranks of Spanish football.
“Velez is currently competing in the 3rd Division, which is two leagues below La Liga, so you know for a young African like me it’s not that easy to just go and play in those teams without having not had a good team you played for … so this is a very good start because it’s close to La Liga where everyone here aspires to play.
“And I’m still 20 years old, so I’m gonna do my best to reach my goal of becoming the first Zimbabwean to play in La Liga.
“I have been based in Spain for a year and a half now and it’s really going well so far. I’m enjoying my stay here and learning a lot, the training sessions are very good, you learn quite a lot and the football here is really quick, so I’m really gaining a lot of experience,” Mapisa said.
Prior to the move to Velez, Mapisa had established himself as one of the top players at CD Almuñécar City since joining the club from renowned local academy, Aces Youth Soccer Academy, together with compatriot, midfielder Abubakar Moffat.
“I was just playing for CD Almuñécar City, then Velez scouts saw me playing before the mid-season break. There was another team in Division 4 which wanted to sign me, but just before I was about to sign with that team Velez sent an offer to the club saying we want that goalkeeper from Zimbabwe. I decided to go with Velez CF because it is a very good side: I played with them once with my old club Almuñécar City and Velez is famous in Spain, so I think that’s my very good way to start my career here,” he said.
Mapisa, who idolises Germany international goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, will be hoping to make an immediate impact at Velez, who are currently fifth in the Tercera División — Group 9, and three points away from securing their place in the Segunda División B promotion playoffs.
A product of Aces Youth Academy, who are renowned for producing quality players who have gone on to put Zimbabwean football on the world map, Mapisa started playing football at the age of 10 while a Zuvarabuda Primary School in Glen Norah A.
He proceeded to Kwayedza High School in Highfield, where he stayed for two years before joining Aces, who facilitated a scholarship for him at Lord Malvern High School in Waterfalls.
“The move to Aces Youth Soccer Academy in 2009 proved to be a turning point in my life because they did everything for me to make sure I concentrated only on my football. They paid for my school fees and I was staying at a very good clubhouse while also going to school,” Mapisa said.
“The faith they showed in me gives me the belief that I can do everything each time I step on the pitch, I’m so happy I’m here now, but I’m not done yet,” he added.
Three years ago Mapisa was part of the Zimbabwe Under-17 side that won a historic gold medal at the 2016 African Union Sports Council Region 5 Games in Angola following a 1-0 win over the hosts in the final in Luanda.
Although it was an extra-time goal by substitute Anelka Chivandire which won the game for the Young Warriors, it was Mapisa who was the star of the show following a superb display between the posts.
“Mahebha”, as Mapisa is affectionately known, is relishing another opportunity to represent the country.
“The call-up to the Young Warriors was my first time representing the country and it was a very memorable experience. It will be nice to receive a call-up to play for my for my country, but my focus at the moment is to continue working hard,” Mapisa.