The Sunday Mail
WARRIORS’ number one George Chigova turns 28 tomorrow. He was only four months old when the Zimbabwe national team suffered the now infamous heartbreak at the hands of Congo Brazzaville back in July of 1991.
That a goalkeeper— the late John Sibanda’s howler— contributed to Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for what would have been a maiden African Cup of Nations finals dance in 1992 has thrown the goalkeeping position back into the spotlight ahead of the 2019 Afcon qualifier against the same opponents later this month.
Zimbabwe host Congo at the National Sports on March 24 and just like back then in 1991, an Afcon ticket is at stake, and the goalkeeping debate has hitherto refused to die down.
Chigova missed Zimbabwe’s last Afcon qualifier through injury when the warriors lost 0-1 in Liberia but the 6 foot 3 goalie should be back in action for the final Afcon qualifier against Congo in which his team needs just a point to qualify for the finals set for Egypt in June.
And Chigova, who has started putting on some top performances for his South African ABSA Premiership side Polokwane since recovering from injury, believes now is the time to put the Congo heartbreak to bed.
“I have heard and read about that game in 1991, I was probably still in my diapers but I believe that chapter should be closed now.
We just have to beat Congo, so that Zimbabwean fans can forget about that heartbreak.”
“This is going to be a revenge mission, we want to punish Congo for what they did to us back in 1991,” thundered Chigova.
“We just have to do it for ourselves and not depend on what happens in the other game. We are going out for maximum points and finish off the campaign in style, it’s also good for the country.”
With Elvis Chipezeze putting in some decent shifts for Baroka FC, Tapuwa Kapini defying age at Highlands Park and FC Platinum’s Petros Mhari being tipped for a return to the Warriors’ fold, debate over who should put on the number one jersey on March 24 has raged on.
The 34-year-old Kapini has conceded 16 goals in 15 appearances for Highlands Park while Chipezeze has shipped in 18 in 17 starts for Baroka FC.
Despite FC Platinum’s relatively uninspiring show in the Caf Champions League, their goalkeeper and skipper Mhari has once again displayed his ability to handle big games, having faced Orlando Pirates, African club football giants Esperance and Horoya AC of Guinea so far.
All this has a positive effect on the Warriors, according to Chigova.
“There are a lot of good goalkeepers in the country and at the moment most of them are playing well and it motivates me to work extra hard.
“Competition is always healthy for the team,” he noted.
The former Dynamos goalkeeper has made 14 appearances for Polokwane City, conceding 17 goals in the process.
Chigova has regained his mojo after fully recovering from a knee injury he picked up in the Warriors’ 1-1 home draw against DR Congo at the National Sports last October.
The giant goalie was in fine form when Rise and Shine drew 1-1 against Mamelodi Sundowns last weekend.
“I would like to believe I am in good shape and happy with my performances lately, but there’s always room for improvement.
“Sometimes it’s not about the keeper’s form, it’s about
whether you are in the right frame of mind.
“That’s where the supporters come in, I am urging the supporters to be patient with whoever will
be selected to play.
“Fans should come in their numbers and make noise,” added Chigova.
Just like John Sibanda back in 1991 a lot will be expected from Chigova should he make it into the starting line up on March 24.
Chigova knows well the pressure that comes with being Zimbabwe’s number one keeper but the Aces Youth Academy product remains unperturbed.
“These things (howlers) happen in football. Mistakes are always common in this game but for me I will not read much into that piece of history (Sibanda’s mistake in 1991),” he said.