The Sunday Mail
FOR big goalkeeper George Chigova, the extended lockdown in South Africa has given him more time to reflect on his career, and the Polokwane goalminder has set himself two major targets when football in South Africa and around the world resumes.
Chigova wants to help Polokwane City survive relegation from the ABSA Premiership and to reclaim his place in the Zimbabwe senior team, having been overlooked for selection since the end of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Egypt.
But, in the interim, Chigova’s attention is focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, and has since urged Zimbabweans in South Africa and at home to abide by the call by authorities to stay at home to contain the spread of the virus.
“Tiri pa lockdown mumba chaimo (we are on lockdown inside the house) Yes, it is difficult, you know, especially when you are used to going to training every day and playing matches, but for now, football can wait; what is important is people’s health.
“We have been given training programmes to do during the lockdown and we are just following that day by day.
“So I also urge each and everyone to follow what the experts and authorities are telling us,’’ Chigova said.
A farcical injury, moments before the Warriors’ final group game against the Democratic Republic of Congo at the AFCON finals, not only ended his participation for the team in that tourney but it was the last time Chigova was to feature for his country.
Despite having fully recovered from that injury — incurred during warm-up, and which forced then-Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa to hurriedly replace him with Elvis Chipezeze for the DRC game — both Joey Antipas and Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic, who have taken charge of the team, have not called on him.
However, Chigova, who has an interesting record with the Warriors in the last three years, is unfazed and still believes he will have another dance with the country’s flagship team.
Interestingly, the Warriors have not lost a game in which Chigova played since the 2017 COSAFA Cup tournament in Rustenburg, South Africa.
These assignments also included the qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Some of the games in which the 29-year-old goalkeeper kept guard include the massive 4-0 and 6-0 wins over Mozambique and Seychelles at Moruleng and Royal Bafokeng Stadium, respectively, in the group games of the 2017 COSAFA Cup.
His first COSAFA Cup crowning arrived on the back the Warriors’ 3-1 win over rivals Zambia at Royal Bafokeng.
A year later, Chigova, who stands at 1,95 metres, proved his COSAFA Cup heroics at his favourite hunting ground — the Peter Mokaba in Polokwane — when he emerged as the hero in two penalty shootout lotteries against Botswana and Lesotho.
First to find Chigova a stumbling block in the penalties were the Botswana Zebras in the quarter-final clash against the Warriors, which had ended 1-1 in regulation time, and which Zimbabwe went on to win 3-1.
Lesotho also failed to find a way past the former Dynamos goalkeeper in the semi-final, which had finished goalless after 90 minutes before the Warriors prevailed 3-1 in the lottery, with Jameson Mukombwe, Alec Mudimu and Khama Billiat converting.
In the final, Zambia could only breach his goal twice, but a brace each by Tino Kadewere and Billiat in extra time helped Chidzambwa’s men to a new record sixth COSAFA title.
In the 2019 AFCON campaign, Chigova was rested in the away game against Liberia in Monrovia, which the hosts won 1-0, the only game he did not start for Chidzambwa’s men.
He had kept goal in such famous wins like the rare 2-1 triumph over DRC in Kinshasa.
Chigova was, however, somewhat surprised at the statistics, insisting his mission, which has been stalled by Covid-19, was to fight his way back into the Warriors and play a role under Loga.
He also bemoaned the fact that the coronavirus, which forced a stop to all ABSA Premiership action, struck at a time when his Polokwane City had hit a purple patch in their battle for survival.
“We had gathered some momentum as Polokwane City and the team was playing really well. We just hope when the season restarts we can continue from where we left off and move up the ladder.
“As for the national team, I feel I am not yet done my business with the squad.
“I just have to keep working hard and playing more games here and if the call-up comes, I will grab it with both hands,’’ said Chigova.
With global football on hold and FIFA president Gianni Infantino hinting at an extended lockdown should the pandemic not be quickly contained, Chigova and Polokwane teammates may have to play yet another game indoors — that of waiting.
The big goalkeeper said although he is still fighting for his Warriors return, he was happy to see Polokwane leading striker Charlton Mashumba earn a call-up, four years after he last featured for Kalisto Pasuwa’s side at the 2016 COSAFA Cup in Namibia.
“Mashumba is a quality striker and underrated; if you play with him, you will know what he is capable of doing and Polokwane City is blessed to have him.
“He is a hard worker and a team player who gives everything for the team,’’ said Chigova of the former Jomo Cosmos man.
“I think his call-up to the Warriors was long overdue. He really deserved it and I was happy for him when I heard about it.”