The Sunday Mail
Langton Nyakwenda Sports Reporter
HIS only weakness, according to one of his former coaches, is failure to realise his real capability and value.
“Maybe he doubts himself. He is not sure yet of what he truly is capable of,” says Garthly Chipuka, who coached Perfect Chikwende at Bulawayo Chiefs before the pint-sized star joined FC Platinum in 2019.
His name has gone viral across the continent, but Chikwende – arguably FC Platinum’s man of the moment – has remained grounded and refuses to let this newfound hero status get into his 27-year-old head.
Thanks to Chikwende’s crucial goals, Pure Platinum Play are now perfectly poised for a third consecutive appearance in the CAF Champions League group stage.
FC Platinum will qualify for the group stage if they avoid losing by a 2-goal margin when they take on Tanzania champions Simba SC in the first round, second leg at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium on Wednesday.
The match kicks off at 6pm Zimbabwean time.
Norman Mapeza’s men carry a 1-0 advantage, courtesy of Chikwende’s strike at the National Sports Stadium in the first leg on December 23.
He was on target again when FC Platinum beat seasoned campaigners Costa do Sol 2-0 in the second leg of the preliminary tie at the National Sports Stadium on December 5, to emerge with a 4-1 aggregate win over the Mozambican champions.
The Gweru-born midfielder has now caught the attention of a number of clubs across the continent, including Simba SC, who, according to reports, are also interested in the services of the veteran duo of goalkeeper Petros Mhari and centre-back Gift Bello.
Other reports from Dar es Salaam are also linking Chikwende with Azam FC, who are home to the Zimbabwean trio of Prince Dube, Bruce Kangwa and ex-FC Platinum player Never Tigere.
“Perfect is now ripe for a move to any club in Africa. He has worked his way up. Credit must go to coach Thulani Sibanda, who conditioned him during his days at Bulawayo Chiefs,” said Chipuka.
Sibanda discovered Chikwende when he was still playing for Southern Region side Black Boots.
Bulawayo Chiefs were also still in the lower league.
“I took Perfect and Stanley Ngala (who is also now at FC Platinum) from Black Boots,” revealed Sibanda.
“He (Chikwende) was more like a winger, he was somebody who wanted to play wide and he was gifted with pace.
“The only thing we had to develop was his off-the-ball movement. We then drafted him to a more central role because I could tell from our conditioning that he was a player with loads of energy.
“He was wasting his energy out on the line,” said Sibanda.
“It was also a question of putting a lot of effort in terms of how to press, how to track, how to get into duels.
“When we got into the Premier Soccer League, we complemented his ability to take on opponents; we had to push him a little high as a second striker or sometimes as a tandem striker,” noted Sibanda.
Chikwende had an impressive top-flight season with Bulawayo Chiefs in 2018 and caught the eye of Mapeza, who then took him to Zvishavane at the beginning of 2019.
Mapeza knew straight away he had struck the right chord after Chikwende exploded on his debut for FC Platinum.
A menacing Chikwende provided an assist as FC Platinum drew 2-2 against Orlando Pirates in a CAF Champions League Group B encounter at the Orlando Stadium on March 9, 2019.
“I normally do not want to give credit to one player because we play as a team, but Chikwende was just outstanding for us,” Mapeza told the media soon after that match.
Chikwende’s biggest weapon is his take-off.
“He can be stationery but in a moment he can leave you for dead just like that. He has the energy and is a versatile player.
“I even played him as a wing-back in a 1-5-4-1 formation in one of the matches when he was still at Chiefs.
“What he doesn’t have in size he makes it up with agility,” noted Chipuka.
Chikwende is itching to put on another good show for the Zimbabwe champions in Tanzania on Wednesday.
“It’s a game of football, anything can happen but I am ready,” Chikwende told The Sunday Mail Sport.
The star player was born in Gweru but spent most of his childhood in Harare and Marondera, before he enrolled at Pamushana High in Masvingo.
“We used to play street soccer in Marondera and that’s when the passion developed,” he said.
He had a short stint a Marondera-based lower league side Bhemba FC before he joined Black Eagles in 2014.
He moved to Black Boots in 2015, spent a year there, before he was discovered by the Bulawayo Chiefs’ technical team.
“I have a dream of playing for the Warriors one day. Representing Zimbabwe in the World Cup and to play professional football in Europe is one of my targets,” said Chikwende, who is called “Bhuru” in some circles because of his energetic charges towards goal.