By Don Makanyanga
Having written his own piece of history at the age of 19, Martin Mapisa has now set his sights on an even bigger challenge, as he now wants to be Zimbabwe’s senior soccer side’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Mapisa, who became the first Zimbabwean goalkeeper to sign with a Spanish club, believes he could be the answer to the Warriors’ current goalkeeping crisis.
The Warriors have been to two major Confederation of African Football (CAF) tournaments — the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the recently held African Nations Championships (CHAN) in Cameroon and in those two competitions, the Warriors have used six goalkeepers, underlining the lack of a regular first-choice for the senior side.
Sandwiched between the AFCON in Egypt and the CHAN in Cameroon were the 2022 AFCON Group H qualifiers in which both Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic and his predecessor Joey Antipas used no less than five goalkeepers.
But given the sensitivity of the goalkeeping position, every team needs a regular first-choice and Mapisa, who plies his trade with Zamora FC, believes his time to step up to the Warriors plate has arrived.
“Playing for the national team has always been my dream and if I am given the opportunity to represent my country, I would be happy to oblige.
“I am ready to serve my country,” said Mapisa.
The 22-year-old has been making steady progress in Spanish football, moving four divisions up inside three years since joining a seventh-tier side Club CD Almunecar as a novice from the Aces Youth Soccer Academy in Harare.
“If given the chance to be the Warriors number one, I will play my normal game and do what I have to do to help the team.
“I believe I can do it,” Mapisa said.
The national Under-23 goalkeeper has now featured for three Spanish clubs since arriving in the European country in 2018.
After signing for Club CD Almunecar, he moved to Velez FC in 2019, with whom he spent just a season and joined Zamora last year, as a free agent.
His profile has been growing ever since the latest move.
Since joining Zamora, Mapisa has made the match-day squad on 13 occasions, starting in four matches where he kept three clean sheets and conceded once.
Mapisa’s romance with the game began during his primary school days at Zuvarabuda Primary School in Harare’s high density suburb of Glen Norah.
At the age of 11, he received a scholarship from Aces Youth Soccer Academy, from where his football journey took a turn for the better.
“I started playing football when I was eight, after which I received a scholarship at Aces Academy upon finishing my primary education.
“It is there where I honed my skills as a goalkeeper,” he said.
The rising demand for tall goalkeepers saw the Glen Norah-born goalminder holding numerous trials in Europe, but he failed to breakthrough.
“It is not easy to break into European football as an African, especially coming from an academy with no history of professional football.
“I remember when I went to Germany for trials, I was told that I was a good player but lacked the experience needed.
“Due to not having played in a competitive league, I lost numerous opportunities.
“However, I did get my breakthrough and I am glad that I made it in Spain,” said Mapisa.
As he revels in his success, Mapisa insists it is all down to hard work.
“I think God rewards hard work and looking at where I have come from, I am happy with what I have achieved so far.
“I aim to continue working hard until I achieve all my dreams,” he said. The Sunday Mail