RETIRED Portuguese footballer, Anderson Luís de Souz, popularly known as “Deco” may never have exhibited his skills on local pitches, but Chicken Inn midfielder Danny Phiri has taken a shot at becoming the local embodiment of the former Barcelona and Chelsea star.
Though he may be a far cry from the Portuguese star in terms of skill and talent, Phiri’s raw talent exhibited at the just ended Africa Nations Championships (Chan) in South Africa left cynics without doubt that he can ably carry the weight that comes with the nickname Deco.
The 25-year-old assumed the moniker while playing for Railstars Under-15 juniors.
While the original Deco went on to win the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto (2004) and Barcelona two years later, Phiri is still learning to crawl, having just graduated into the Warriors set up, albeit the second string side.
However, with the usual suspects for the anchorman role in the Warriors set up Esrom Nyandoro and Tinashe Nengomasha’s international careers coming to an end, the Chicken Inn midfielder is heavily knocking on the door.
Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Willard Katsande seems the heir apparent to the throne which in the past has been the preserve of such great names as Benjamin Nkonjera, but from obscurity, Phiri has emerged.
For two consecutive seasons, modest side Chicken Inn have finished fourth and sixth respectively, with all the accolades going to defender Felix Chindungwe, Kuda Mahachi and Tendai Ndoro.
While German mentor Klaus-Dieter Pagels saw his potential, he did not hand him the responsibility for the crucial anchorman’s role. Instead, he chose the now Sweden based Archford Gutu, who is known more as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker.
However, the just ended Chan in South Africa where Zimbabwe finished fourth, heralded the emergence of a midfield general — Phiri — whom coach Ian Gorowa entrusted with the dirty job.
A midfield hardman whose exploits are exhibited by the numerous bookings, Phiri has asserted himself as a serious contender in Gorowa’s squad for the 2015 African Nations Cup qualification.
The Warriors and Chicken Inn hardman’s career has not been rosy as he had to fight against odds to be noticed and excel in his country’s colours. Not only had the 25-year-old to battle with the loss of his main inspiration, his father at 18, he also had to be content with being mistaken for former Dynamos, Njube Sundowns and Highlanders defender Danisa Phiri.
However, in all this John 14:1 which reads: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” keeps inspiring the Warriors’ unsung hero.
“I am a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church and with God in your heart, everything is possible. I did not have it easy to be where I am today. When my father (Leonard) died in 2007 I was devastated and did not know what life would be like. Having played for Tongogara in Division One, he used to give me advice on the proper conduct of a footballer. My mother raised me and I had to pick myself up,” he said.
However, it is being confused with Danisa Phiri that irks him for he wants people to see him for who he is.
Phiri said the Chan tournament where the Warriors finished fourth was an eye opener. He, however, expressed his disappointment at losing to Libya in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Despite the talent and skill that he exhibited in South Africa, Phiri says no club has approached him yet even locally. “Chicken Inn is a good club with high ambitions, but my wish is to play for a bigger club like Highlanders. I really want to play for Highlanders, but will wait for the club to approach me. My contract with Chicken Inn expires on December 31 this year,” said the father of three-year-old Romeo.