How athletics pulled footballer Tapera over the line

26 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
How athletics pulled footballer Tapera over the line

The Sunday Mail

Tadious Manyepo

Sports Reporter

MICHAEL TAPERA has his athletics gift to thank for paving the way for what is now a flourishing football career.

The Manica Diamonds forward has become a cult hero in Manicaland for his match-winning goals and assists.

He is enjoying the best start to a season in his stint in the Premiership, having already surpassed all his past performances with five goals to his name in just 11 appearances.

With the Jairos Tapera-coached club riding on the crest of the wave, where they lead the Premiership standings after 13 rounds of matches, Michael has been a key part of the process and he is, by far, the man of the moment in the top-flight.

The 26-year-old admits that he could have been wasted a long time ago, back in Chivi, where he dropped out of school during the first term of Grade Two.

“I find it very hard to really think that I am the one scoring important goals for my team in the country’s top-flight league,” said Michael.

“Look, I lost my father when I was in Grade Two, in the first term, and that worsened an already hard situation in my life.

“It was hopeless and, predictably, I dropped out of school because my mother couldn’t afford to pay the school fees.

“I was too young to make sense out of that situation, but I would cry when I saw other children of my age going to school while I was herding cattle.”

Despite the dire financial situation at home remaining the same, the family decided to let Michael return to school the following year.

“So, I just rejoined my age-mates in Grade 3 despite having spent close to one year out of school,” he said.

“I was still young, but I vividly remember how happy I was to be back in school with the other children.

“My fees had still not been paid, so I was at school on borrowed time and I just hoped for the best.”

And the best arrived in the most unpredictable manner.

“It was an athletics term and so learners were taking part in field and track events. I didn’t know my capabilities, but I just decided to go for track events,” said Michael.

“And there I was, outsprinting everyone in short distances, at house level, inter-houses, then zonal, district . . .”

That’s how the young Michael got a scholarship that took him through his primary education. And along the way, he would here and there play football, but he was not as good as he was on the track.

He was, however, still good enough to earn another scholarship, this time around in football.

The football scholarship then took him to Chibi High School.

“I realised something though. In 2008, I was sent to fetch some firewood by my mother, together with my friend. I was asked to join a social football team because they were a man short,” he said.

“I didn’t refuse, although I was still a mere primary school learner. The athlete in me gave me a lot of belief and I could run well for the ball.

“So, at school, I was doing the same, but the technique was somehow letting me down.

“I just decided to pull out all the stops for the love of the game. There was this former Triangle player, Tatenda Kanyemba, who hailed from our area and he told me that he couldn’t see anyone making it in athletics. That’s how I ended up trying to perfect my football craft more than fine-tuning the athlete in me.”

The silky winger would then join Masvingo United before he was identified by former Manica Diamonds gaffer Johanisi Nhumwa, who promptly signed him in 2018.

It is Jairos Tapera though who seems to be bringing the best out of the striker, who for long has always been a part of the Manica Diamonds undercard.

“Michael is one of the best players in the league and I am loving how he is maturing with each game,” he said.

“He is a very good reader of the game and, often, he comes off the bench to fully maximise on the opponents’ shortcomings.

“I can tell you that he is one boy who is very humble and focused. At 26, he still has loads of time to improve and assert himself in the game.”

Michael knows the hardships he faced while growing up and he is already making hay while the sun still shines after having acquired two properties so far.

 X: manyepotaddy3


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