It's good to be back: Zhokinyu

HARARE - Former Warriors defender Guthrie Zhokinyu wants to make up for lost time after he was handed a chance to resurrect his career by Castle Lager Premiership side Triangle.

For close to four years, Zhokinyu was in the wilderness after he was banned from all football activities by the previous Zifa board led by Cuthbert Dube for his involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.

Although he protested his innocence, the former Shooting Stars and Dynamos defender was handed a life ban by Zifa.
Even though Fifa refused to endorse the ban, the local association still kept Zhokinyu in limbo and prohibited him from playing the game that had rescued him from poverty while growing up in Chitungwiza.

Zhokinyu also sought help from the Footballers’ Union of Zimbabwe, who in turn alerted FifPro but still the defender’s ordeal did not come to an immediate conclusion.

His nightmare finally came to an end mid-last year when Zifa finally allowed him to return to the field but getting a team to sign him proved difficult.

The 33-year-old found a way back into the top flight when he signed for the Sugar Sugar Boys at the start of this year.

Zhokinyu sat on the bench for Triangle’s opening match of the season at Gibbo Stadium against Harare City three weeks ago.

Coach David Mandigora then gave the defender his Triangle debut last Saturday in the 0-0 draw against his former side Dynamos at Rufaro Stadium.

The defender put in a splendid performance to shut out his former club and it was unthinkable that he had last featured in a competitive match in 2012. 

Zhokinyu says it was a proud moment for him to get back on the field after a long period on the sidelines.

“Deep down I knew my football career was not over. I kept on saying to myself that one of these days I will play football again,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Football is the only thing I know and I just kept believing that I would play again. It was pleasing wonderful be back on the field again.”

Zhokinyu admits he went through a lot during those days when he was banned and he just wants to enjoy this moment.

“To tell you the truth, I went through hell during the time I was banned. I don’t want to talk about it anymore because it’s a painful part of my life,” he says.

“There are a lot of things that happened behind the scenes that caused my ban to remain while other players were pardoned a long time ago.

“Right now, I just want to forget all about it and concentrate on
rebuilding my career with Triangle and the future that lies ahead.”

Zhokinyu said he had to block out everything connected to local football during his ban in order to remain positive during those four years in the abyss.

“After getting banned, I remained hopeful that it would come to an end soon. I completely switched off from the domestic game,” he says.

“I did not go to the stadium to watch any single match or follow the news to get in touch with what was happening.

“In order to keep fit; I just trained on my own because I knew the day would come when I had to play football again.

“Before the ban, I had played a lot of matches in the Premier League for Shooting Stars and Dynamos, so there was nothing new for me,” he said of his first game for Triangle.

“I can regard myself as a seasoned player on the domestic scene and there was no way I was going to be overwhelmed by the situation.

“I was not under any pressure as I just applied myself to what the coach had told me during the course of the week in training.”    

Now that he has got his first game under the belt, Zhokinyu is looking forward to staking a claim in the Sugar Sugar Boys starting XI for the remainder of the season.

“My goal now is to keep on working hard for the rest of the season and take it game by game,” he says.

“After having my career cut short by the ban; this is the time for me to make good of this second chance I have been given. I want to hang up my boots on my own terms after having excelled with Triangle.”

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