By Don Makanyanga
Tasked with keeping an eye on one of the best footballers in the world, Riyad Mahrez, everything seemed to be going according to plan for Warriors debutant Adam Chicksen, until the 37th minute.
West Ham United winger Said Benrahma’s long-range pass found the fleet-footed Mahrez just inside Zimbabwe’s half.
The Manchester City winger controlled the ball beautifully with a soft flick off his heel, turning Chicksen not once, but twice to create some shooting space, and likewise, the Algerian skipper found the target to give the Desert Foxes a 2-0 lead in a 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier at an empty National Sports on Monday.
Excited with prospects of taking on one of the world’s best attackers, the Notts County defender knew what was expected of him, and for 37 minutes, Chicksen did likewise, keeping the Manchester City winger under lock and key. “I was relaxed and not expecting too much.
“I didn’t want to put pressure on myself. I just wanted to do what was right for the team, and try to keep him (Mahrez) as quiet as possible. I did what I was supposed to do, to keep an eye on him, until his moment of brilliance. His moment of genius got them the goal, but other than that, I was quite comfortable. But that’s why he gets paid that kind of money, for such moments like that,” said Chicksen. Mahrez’s goal created a social media frenzy that spilled into England, where some Twitter users ended up denigrating Zimbabwean players.
CAF created an online voting poll for the best goal of AFCON’s Match Day four and Mahrez narrowly edged Warriors skipper Knowledge Musona, whose sublime free-kick, against Algeria, received rave reviews.
“I was very excited to get a chance to play against one of the top players in the world, but for me, it was what we could do as a team and I kept him quiet enough to help the team to a point.
“That was the main thing for the team,” said the Notts County left-back.
Born-and-bred in England, Chicksen made his debut for the Warriors on Monday at the age of 29.
The feeling of being called up for national duty was an exciting moment for the defender while earning a place in the first XI for the team that faced Algeria, was a surreal experience.
“I was ecstatic when I was named in the first X1, obviously, when you come you want to play for your country, and it’s something that you always dream of.
“I was so excited, ‘’ he said.
Being used to tougher environments just before games in England, Chicksen revealed that the atmosphere in the Warriors camp, just before the match, helped him to relax ahead of his debut.
“I would say, it was something new (singing in the changing room and bus before the match), and I saw it as something very good for the atmosphere in the team.
“I come from England and the atmosphere is very different, it is very subdued.
“It is very serious, and you need to be a bit relaxed in big tense moments and games. When you come here; they create an atmosphere before the game with the singing, dancing and it creates a feeling of being together. It helps create the right atmosphere and the togetherness of playing in a game. It is a great attitude to have as a team,” he said.
Having spent a week in camp with the Warriors, Chicksen is longing for another dance with the Zimbabwe national senior team. But, he reckons it won’t be an easy task to just walk into the Warriors first X1.
“I hope it will be a long journey with the Warriors,” said Chicksen.
“There is so much quality in the team, so much competition, and competition leads to better performances.
“People are playing on the edge because they know that their places could be taken away from them. “If you look around the team, there is experience and quality, and if we qualify for the tournament with such a team, we can take on the best teams in Africa.
“We showed as much (on Monday) that we can do it”. SundayMail.