WHEN Cheryl Dzapasi decided to take up a hockey stick at Highlands Primary School in Harare over a decade ago, she admits she was full of passion but had very little talent.“I was possibly the worst hockey player there was. I was in the D team,” recalls the Zimbabwe Under-21 women’s hockey team central defender. By Brighton Zhawi
However, a lot of hard work saw Dzapasi grasping the basics of the sport, rising through the ranks and breaking into the national team. Now she is heading to Chile for the Junior Women’s World Cup.
“I never imagined myself going to the World Cup. It’s still very surreal even though we leave in a few days now,” said Dzapasi.
The 18-year-old is a key member of a team that has vowed to defend the country’s pride at the showcase that runs from November 24 to December 4 in Santiago.
“It will not be easy because we are playing some of the best teams in the world. However, we will never give up, because quitters never win and winners never quit,” said the Chisipite High A-Level pupil.
Zimbabwe are in the same group with The Netherlands, the United States and South Korea; and Dzapasi wants to make a solid statement against each opponent, starting with the first game against the US.
“After the World Cup, I plan on getting a hockey scholarship to America and hopefully that will take my hockey to greater heights. The match against the US will give me a rough idea of what I will be up against when I play for a university in America. It is one of the matches I am looking forward to playing,” she said.
Faced with opponents who are most likely to dominate possession, Dzapasi is aware that Zimbabwe will have little room for error in Chile. A solid defensive show will give the side a chance to some upsets.
“As defenders, our biggest rule is to support and encourage each other. If I miss a tackle, I know I have my teammate behind me ready to fix my mistake. If I feel discouraged in the game, my teammates will always be there to encourage me or say something funny to lift me up. Without chemistry, it would be very difficult to play, there would not be any support,” she said.
Dzapasi also has dreams away from hockey.
“I want to pursue a degree in business – Human Resource Management – which involves working with people, recruiting, and counselling people in the company. I love working with people and I think that’s exactly why I love playing a team sport,” she said.