IN Norman Mapeza young Warriors defender Teenage Hadebe found a coach who trusted him and did not hesitate to thrust him at the deep end in a big 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Liberia last week.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Save for some early match jitters, the lanky Chicken Inn defender and Kaizer Chiefs target acquitted himself well partnering Partson Jaure in a clean sheet performance in front of a packed National Sports Stadium.
“It just makes me feel like a real warrior representing my country; it is always a big honour. It feels good just to be selected in the Warriors squad but being in the starting lineup is something I really relish,” the 21-year-old centre back told Sports World in an exclusive interview.
Hadebe has been a consistent member of the Warriors team since he made his debut last year, but he was guaranteed a starting place only when the team was made up of locally based players.
He even travelled with the national team to the Gabon Afcon finals in January but failed to make a single start.
But last week he was selected to start amongst the foreign based contingent which probably explains the short-lived nerves.
“I prefer other people to judge my performance and from our fans and teammates I received a lot of positive compliments so I guess I played well against Liberia,” Hadebe said of his performance.
Remarkably Hadebe has proven to be a goal scorer for the Warriors in the short time that he has been with the team.
In just nine starts, he has netted four times, a record that could make any striker green with envy; three of them headed goals making use of his height and aerial adavantage.
No wonder he was a subject of harassment by the Liberians during corner kicks and set pieces.
“Scoring for me is just a bonus as I’m not really expected to do so considering my role on the field which is to defend. But I enjoy popping in the box and nodding them in whenever I can,” he said.
The former Gifford and Mzilikazi High School student, started playing football at grassroots level with clubs like Amazulu, Highlander’s and FMH Academy before Methembe Ndlovu gave him his first professional contract at Bantu Rovers in Division One when he was only 15.
Hadebe spent a year at Highlanders in 2015 before he was captured by Chicken Inn last year where he established himself as a top central defender and often used as a wingback.
Locally his role model is former Highlanders dribbling wizard Johannes Ngodzo while it makes sense that he follows Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos internationally.
“(Johannes) Ngodzo is my role model mainly because I used to watch him play when I was a kid. I wanted to play like him but I eventually turned out to be a defender,” he said.
“And abroad it’s Sergio Ramos because he plays my position and he scores vital goals although I don’t like his aggression which has earned him one too many red cards.”
Hadebe believes the current Warriors squad has capacity to qualify for the Cameroon Afcon and even reach the knockout stages.
“We have a lot of talented players in this team but football is now very unpredictable. Our mission is to reach the knockout stages of the next Afcon because we can qualify,” he said.
While Zimbabwe seems to be thin in the defence line, in Hadebe the Warriors are assured of a quality performer and important goals for the next decade.