Pfumbidzai exorcises Denmark ghost

Warriors fullback Ronald Pfumbidzai thought his breakthrough to launch a professional footballing career in Europe had arrived when he signed for Danish side Hobro IK in 2015.

Understandably so, it is every African player’s dream to earn a move to Europe where the game is modernised and is played at an elite level. 

Hobro IK presented the right platform for Pfumbidzai to make his mark in Europe and hopefully break into the other big leagues. 

Pfumbidzai had spent one season at the Harare giants, CAPS United, establishing himself as one of the key players for the Green Machine.

The move to Denmark at that stage of his career was just but a dream come true. However, midway into his one-year deal, the move eventually turned out to be a regrettable one for the full back as it threatened to derail his career.

“It was difficult for me. I couldn’t adjust. The environment was not just conducive for me. Everything just didn’t work for me,” recalls Pfumbidzai.

“It’s not easy being in foreign land and for that matter, I was still very young. I was staying close to the stadium but the living conditions were not conducive especially for someone in a foreign land.

“It made everything difficult for me to cope, adapt and adjust at the same time.”

There are many tales of young African stars plucked from the continent with the hope of a better life through football in Europe. 

But all that seems to glitter is not gold. At times it becomes hell on earth for these African players. 

All those promises from the agents and clubs turn out to be not true and Pfumbidzai found himself in the same basket. 

“Even the remuneration could not match what I was going through,” he says of his stay at Holbro. 

 “I got game time here and there but I never really enjoyed my time there and that’s when I thought of terminating my contract. 

“Quincy (Antipas) encouraged me to stay but I had, had enough and all I wanted was to come back home.”

Pfumbidzai finally made his mind to terminate his contract after talking to his then girlfriend and now wife. 

But upon terminating his contract, the backlash back home was relentless.

There were stories awash on social media of the defender’s “deviant behaviour” which necessitated the termination.

Some even claimed that he had been sent packing by the Danish after had stolen some of his teammates’ cell-phones. All which is not true. 

It was at this point that Pfumbidzai thought his life had fallen apart and his future would be a lost cause. 

But as someone, who grew up in the high-density suburb of Highfield, where life taught him some harsh lessons at an early age, Pfumbidzai refused to bow down to the pressures. 

“A lot of negative stories were doing rounds on social media and at first it affected me a lot,” he says. 

“I could not explain anything to anyone at that point. It was Quincy, though, who then clarified what had happened.

“Mentally, I was very down but then I quickly recalled how my parents always told me to be strong in life. 

“I grew up a difficult life. I would go to the market after school to sell veggies among other things and it was not easy then. 

“But it’s part of life and it made me to grow into a strong person and helped me become a better person.

“I then told myself to be strong and thought of my next move immediately.”

Pfumbidzai is also grateful to his wife who stood with him during those tough times.

“I thank God for my wife. She stood by me in all those difficult moments. She would encourage me not to let all that affect me. She was the kind of antidote I needed at that moment,” Pfumbidzai said.

The lessons learnt from that episode in Denmark instilled in Pfumbidzai with a lot of discipline which he used to great effect upon his return to CAPS at the start of 2016. 

The defender went on to become an integral figure in Lloyd Chitembwe’s team that went on to win the league title that year. 

Pfumbidzai was the leading assist provider in 2016 and was voted among the 11 Soccer Stars of the Year. 

“It motivated me to work hard. It inspired me to even work harder and prove my detractors wrong,” he said. 

“It turned out to be one of my best seasons because we went on to lift the title and for me it was a proud moment. 

“I enjoyed every moment of it. We were a group of hard working team who complemented each other.” 

But while it was his best year in his career, it was however, not smooth sailing as the team had to endure frustrations over late payments in allowances and salaries.

Pfumbidzai considers himself fortunate, though, as his wife would consistently look after him courtesy of her pocket money and at times bus fare which would meant ultimately saw her missing lectures. 

“It was not an easy road. There were times when we would go for months without getting paid. Naturally such kind of stuff affects your performances but I consider myself to be lucky to have such a caring wife,” he said. 

“She was always there for me. I can’t thank her enough. She would help me with food and sometimes even paying my rent.” 

The following year saw CAPS United participating in the Africa Champions League and went on to cause a few of upsets knocking TP Mazembe out of tournament. 

And in the group stages they also registered some crucial home victories against Zamalek and USM Algiers with Pfumbidzai playing an important part. 

And it was at that point that Pfumbidzai caught the eye of current club Celtic Bloemfontein. 

In fact Celtic had already made up their mind as they eventually snapped him in July 2017. 

Considering how much his career has progressed, Pfumbidzai looks back at the decision he made to leave Denmark and return home with pride. 

“I think leaving Denmark was the best decision that I have ever done in my career. I have progressed 10 fold,” he said. 

“Celtic afforded me an opportunity to showcase my talent in an equally professional environment and am really grateful. 

“I just want to keep working hard and keep on improving. My dream is to play in Europe again but it’s down to hard work.” 

Pfumbidzai’s revival has not gone unnoticed as the Warriors technical team worsted no time in drafting the talented fullback into the squad for the DR Congo which he capped with a fine goal and caught the world with his unique celebration. 

With the Warriors now set for a crucial home tie against Congo, Pfumbidzai wants to continue on the same trajectory. 

The defender is part of the 28-man squad announced by coach Sunday Chidzambwa to face Congo at the National Sports Stadium on March 24.

“I think there is need for us to avoid complacency. We need to work hard. We should be able to wrap up the match early. There is no room for error everyone is aware,” Pfumbidzai said. 

“We are almost there and surely we can’t afford any slip-up.”

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