IN spite of his physical disability, gifted footballer Kudakwashe "Terminator" Mapira has continually not been deterred by the handicap in pursuit of his football dream.
Mapira was born 28 years ago with a physical deformity where his left foot is virtually missing.
It was also apparent at a tender age that the gifted boy also had a unique football talent and general love for the sport. And for as long as he can remember, Mapira has been playing football with able-bodied competitors and in most cases outplaying them, but a professional contract has eluded him because of his physical condition.
However, the footballer, popularly known as Terminator, recently made history, becoming the first physically challenged player to make the Zimbabwe Homeless World Cup team.
Terminator is part of the team to represent the country at the event to be held in Cardiff, Wales in July. "It has been my prayer to go to Europe one day and to possibly get a chance to play football there. But with the Homeless World Cup opportunity, it's no longer about me, but for all the people with disability," the footballer, born and bred in Glen Norah, told Sports Hub.
"I want to open doors for others like me so I will be representing every disabled person in the world. I want to be an inspiration in the world even to able-bodied players."
It has been Mapira's dream from when he was young to carve a successful football career and eventually play for the Zimbabwe national team. He also wanted to look after his mother, Annette Chikurumi-Mapira (now late), from his football gift.
But it has not been an easy journey from being turned away by a number of local academies and local junior football clubs. Only one coach, former Zifa technical director Maxwell Takaendesa Jongwe, was brave enough to give Mapira a junior contract at CAPS FC, while Takesure Chiragwi was tempted to sign the player for division one football when he coached Flame Lily.
"I have been playing football since I was about six, playing plastic football in the street with able- bodied friends. I have never seen myself as disabled, but it's only other people who always remind me.
"I was better than many of my friends in football and it was sad when some of my friends were joining academies and I would be turned away. I also wanted to take my career to the next level, but most coaches never wanted to give me a chance," Terminator recalled.
Apart from having natural talent, it was hard for Mapira not to like football growing up in an area awash with football icons such as Tinashe Nengomasha, George Shaya, Dickson Choto and Givemore Manuella, to mention a few. Mapira also grew up playing with the likes of Abbas Amidu while he is best friends with former Warriors and Dynamos goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva.
One thing Mapira is grateful for is the fact that his parents did not treat him as disabled by taking him to disability schools.
"I always hoped that I would be able to look after my mother through football. I thank my mother and father because they did not send me to schools for people with disabilities.
"It helped me not to look at myself as a person with disability, but I actually feel sorry for other children who have disability," Mapira said.
Mapira is one of the eight players selected to represent the country in Cardiff from the over 1 000 hopefuls who participated in the trials. Interestingly the Homeless World Cup team also for the first includes three women and five men.
Nokuthula Dube, Natasha Ndowa and Sharai Nyakatsapa make up the women in the team, while Oscar Muraicho, Peter Sungai, Mostaf Jafari, Denzel Mhindirira and Mupira complete the squad.
"I want to thank Young Achievement for Sports Development for this opportunity to go represent my country because it was my dream. I used to ask God why I was born like this, but I realise that He had amazing plans for me.
"I hope this opportunity will open doors for me so I that I can make money to set up a school of sports for disabled people who are gifted in the country," Mapira said.
Because of his physical fitness and strength, Mapira was nicknamed Terminator by former Motor Action star Michael Bingadadi and many people know him only by that name.
German great Bastian Schweinsteiger is Mapira's idol as well Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mapira may have inherited his football skills from his father Alois Mapira, who is understood to have played in the late 1970s and is a former CAPS United manager. It is also Mapira's dream to become a football coach.