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The Player's corner : "My name is Hardlife"

Hardlife Zvirekwi is a player from Zimbabwe, playing for CAPS United in the Castle Premier League. In March 2018, he had a car accident and had his left hand amputated. Five weeks later, he was back in training. In this blog, the right midfielder explains his new life.

Hardlife Zvirekwi back on the field with his club, CAPS United, after having had his left hand amputated

Hardlife Zvirekwi

Midfield

Zimbabwe, CAPS United

    
"My first name is Hardlife. Yes, Hardlife. In Zimbabwe parents have the tendency to name their children based on someone’s name in the family or the situation they faced. And when I was born, my parents did not have such a good life, that’s why they choose this name for me. They did not have a job back then, they were still in Mutare, and they came to town to try and find some work. I was the first child. We came to Harare when I was one year old. My parents did all they could to make sure I still could go to school, to keep the family going. My two sisters came, and my two brothers and it was not easy for my parents. But I was a very happy kid and I appreciated the hard work they did for us. They sent us to primary school, to secondary school, they fought their way to make us get a decent life.

I have played football all my life. Where we were, you would play football with a plastic ball in the streets. You start playing very young, especially when you grow up in the ghetto. You could play football from morning until night when your parents would call you to come and sleep.

When I was in primary level in grade five, I had an opportunity to be scouted by a football Academy, the Agatha Sheneti Soccer Academy - ASSA. They brought me into the academy, I grew up there, made it into U-15, U-16, U-17. I did learn a lot. I was nurtured. Not only in football, because the focus was also on the academic side. But when I reached the A level in 2007, I was waiting for the results, the owner decided to leave the project, and told me I could not go on anymore. That was a blow. Then I decided to join a team newly promoted in the Premier League, which was called Gunners Football Club. I passed the trial, that’s when I started my career in the Premier League. I won the title with the Gunners in 2009, made it to the national team, then became captain of CAPS United who I joined in 2013.

And then back in March this year, I had a bad car accident. A few hours before, I was training with my club. I was really on top of my game that day. And I had this accident on the road. So bad that I had to go through surgery and the doctors had to amputate my left hand. For my teammates to hear what happened right after this session… They were traumatized.

The accident left a lot of physical and emotional scars, the appearance… Mentally as well it’s been very hard. It’s never the same, it will never be the same. My family has been so supportive, they did a great job. Considering it was not easy for them to accept. It took them some time but they have been really there for me.

But the greatest thing is that you have to be appreciative for having your life preserved. Everything else, I don’t really think that’s what matters. I am still here. I can still go on. Try to make an impact in the life of people. You can always make an impact, no matter the situation or the circumstances.

When I had the accident, I cannot say I was worried to die. In reality I was worried and concerned if I could play again. After they told me that they would have to amputate my hand, it crossed my mind and it went back and forth, I was wondering what would be the end result for me. But the only thing I really remember vividly is that I still had the faith and the belief that even if they would amputate my hand, I would still come back and try to play. Like that. I saw beyond the amputation. I still wanted to make an impact, despite what happened to me. I accepted it, in a positive way. It was not the end of my life and I had to still try and make the most of what is there, now.

Following the accident, I only went away from training for four weeks. The fifth week, I was back. When I came back training I think it was quite an inspirational moment for my teammates. Some of them were really amazed, they told me ‘you really have a big heart’. They told me they admire my bravery to come back after what I had gone through. The reality is that you never know how far you can go. I am still in and ready to break new ground and inspire a lot of people, leave a legacy.

I keep on trying. I still have to find out my new self on the football field. How to balance, how to do the agility part of it, how to discover the things that I can no longer do. I had to adapt very fast. To learn the contact, the landing, the falling off. It is not easy to be honest. The most difficult is the contact. At a high level, there are a lot of phases when you have to make contact and hand a player off. So I have to try and improvise because the hand is no longer there. Tackling, getting up, I could adapt and do it now. The contact, the handing off, that’s what remains difficult. But I am still the same player. I am a workaholic, that I know for sure. I am technically sound. Tactically astute. I never give up. It ain’t over til it’s over, that’s how I see it. I am proud of myself, sometimes when I see what I can do I ask myself ‘did I really do that ?’. I will keep on trying and work hard and make the most of my weakness and improve my game.

You have to set goals and targets for yourself. You can never be someone who just goes around and take a day as it goes. You need to achieve these goals, both short term and long term. My goal is to get back to the national team, to come back at the level when I will catch the attention of the national coach.

You might wonder if I have had enough to talk about my accident. I haven’t. It’s something that happened. And maybe it is something that people would learn from. You have to be very cautious on the road. The only thing you can control is yourself, everything else you cannot. So you have to be focused and stick to the rules of the road and traffic. So yes, I am very ok to talk about my accident, as long as it is going to lift someone’s spirit up."