By Tadious Manyepo
Perennial Warriors fall guy, Elvis Chipezeze, takes a deep breath as he boards the team bus back to the Warriors hotel in Algiers.
He is haunted and clearly confused.
He makes no effort to talk to anyone, as teammates console each other on the self-inflicted defeat, they have just suffered in Algeria.
Now, walking with a limp due to a twisted knee, he is helped by defender Teenage Hadebe, onto the bus.
A mistake, which gifted Algeria a 31st minute lead, is haunting the goalkeeper.
The big question remains — is the 30-year-old cursed when it comes to national duty?
He was the fall guy again, at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt when the Warriors, needing an outright victory over the DRC, were reduced into amateurs in a 0-4 mauling. In 505 minutes he has kept the Warriors goal, in major games, Chipezepe has conceded seven goals.
Chipezeze also kept goal in the two-legged FIFA World Cup preliminary round against minnows Somalia, conceding once in the 0-1 loss away on September 15 2019.
He then let in another goal, four days later, when the Warriors secured a come-from-behind 3-1 victory to advance to the group stages.
In the 2021 AFCON qualifiers Teenage Hadebe, Chipezeze has conceded three goals in the 225 minutes he has played, keeping a clean sheet once against Botswana on November 15, 2019, at the National Sports Stadium.
Four days later, he failed to stop Patson Daka’s effort, at his near post, as the Warriors beat Chipolopolo 2-1 at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
That the Warriors went on to win that match, helped shift the focus away from him, but the demons returned to haunt him in Algiers in the opening 45 minutes.
Chipezeze was replaced by FC Platinum goalkeeper, Petros Mhari, in the squad when the Warriors forced a 2-2 draw in the return leg at the National Sports Stadium on Monday.
Talbert Shumba took his place in goal.
While he has literally transformed himself into the player the country loves to hate, there is no doubting his quality, especially at club level.
He won Goalkeeper of the Year award, on two separate occasions, when he was still playing for Chicken Inn.
After helping the Gamecocks to their only Premiership title in 2015, Chipezeze was voted the Goalkeeper of the Year.
He retained the accolade, two years, later after keeping 19 clean sheets, in 29 games.
He was rewarded with a move to South Africa Premiership side Baroka on March 27, 2018, making his debut in a 1-1 draw against Highlands Park on August 29 the same year.
He has never looked back since and has risen to become the Baroka captain.
Chipezeze is one of the reasons why Baroka survived relegation, after keeping nine clean sheets and conceding 23 goals, in 27 matches, in the 2019-2020 season. Baroka are in second place, in the South African Premiership race, after three rounds of fixtures.
The Warriors ‘keeper has conceded three goals, one in each of the outings.
After failing to redeem himself in the Warriors colours, once again, Chipezeze will be one of the main men expected to help Baroka maintain their good form in Super Diski.
Somehow, a player who appears to be a star, in club colours, is struggling to transform that form into his national team.
He must be wondering why this is happening to him.
And, those who know him well, including his Warriors teammates, are also wondering why this should be happening to such a nice guy. The Herald.