By Phillip Zulu
The recent invitation of Zamora CF first-choice goalkeeper Martin “Neuer” Mapisa to the Warriors squad for this month’s crucial AFCON football qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia is strategic in trying to solve our biggest problem between the goalposts since the departure of the legendary former Liverpool goalminder Bruce “Jungleman” Grobbelaar.
Mapisa’s height of 1.95m, a young age of 22 and already playing at a very good level in the Segunda B Division in Spain should help fortify our leaking defence and give more confidence to the back four during these next two games and for the long haul.
The Dream Team, which we all fondly remember, had a good construct at the back — Grobbelaar, Henry “Bully” McKop, Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda, Francis Shonayi /Ephraim Chawanda or Alex Maseko/John Phiri – our rearguard was impeccably diligent and reassuring in maintaining goal margins in our favour without conceding like our current situation.
Our former number one goalkeeper Grobbelaar signed with Liverpool aged 24 after playing competitively in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Canada thus amassing a wealth of experience and mental strength to deal with a robust English Premiership League with Liverpool.
The similarities and parallels with Mapisa’s journey are quite evident and infinitive. At 22-years-old of his raw talent, he steps into the biggest challenge of his career by showing a good run of games in Spain where he is attracting top teams in the La Liga where the global elitist players like Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, Sergio Ramos and many others ply their lucrative trades in.
The optimum progression of top-flight football in the Spanish La Liga is on the threshold of our young imposing athletic goalkeeper, who has had some top-level goalkeeping stints in Germany with a top Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen.
Such a top goalkeeping internship with worldclass goalkeepers coaching programmes is what Mapisa deserves for his career to blossom at the highest levels of club and international football.
Mapisa’s impressive displays in Spain should impact his confidence positively, the natural feeling that his talent and exposure in European leagues are implicitly the determinant factors of how he handles himself in training sessions and games. Good goalkeepers past and present in world football have impeccable and imperious qualities that they exude in such important fixtures.
Calmness in goal, decisiveness in managing the 18 area and a thumb rule of a measured calculating mental awareness bodes well with top-flight performers.
Mapisa has to boldly show his presence in being like an eagle-eyed goal-minder sniffing out all crosses in his box, intelligent positioning of his defence lines during set-pieces and undue counter-attacks during the run of play.
We miss that aura of the “Jungleman’s” confidence, our recent goalies lacked that conviction of presence in controlling the defensive units from midfield and the backline. Mapisa has all the good qualities of being a top-flight goalkeeper if he brings that tenacity in his game to thwart any forays as a last line of defence.
Every game is different and at this level of international football and Mapisa has to be reminded that Botswana does pose a huge threat to our progress in qualifying for the next AFCON finals hence the seriousness of these two fixtures has to be applied with great measure.
There’s nothing like a small team or easy games, winning games is the minimum expectations after 90 minutes. Depending on the availability of the foreign legions who play in top-flight leagues in Europe, the game against Botswana demands total dedication and a ruthless streak of collecting maximum points to boost our qualifying chances.
Welcome on board Martin “Neuer” Mapisa, welcome to the Warriors rearguard that is waiting for strong characters who seek to excel at the highest level and follow in the footsteps of Grobbelaar. The Herald