Polokwane City goalkeeper Cyril Chibwe has explained why he chose to represent Zambia and not the country of his birth, South Africa. Chibwe was called up by Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki but the 26-year-old has instead chosen to play for the country of his parents’ birth, Zambia.
“It wasn’t really saying no Bafana, you understand? It’s a matter of my dad used to play that side, so he didn’t really manage to play for the national team. I thought I need to fulfil his dream and make it my dream,” Chibwe tells KickOff.com.
“Zambia called me and then we took a decision from there, but way back it was whoever comes first. If Bafana comes first I will choose them because Zambia wouldn’t have recognised me by then. So now Zambia spoke to me first before Bafana.
“But it’s not a matter of I said ‘no I don’t want to’… it is something that I just needed to fulfil on my own, make my dad proud and myself proud too. He is in South Africa now, I grew up in South Africa. I was born in the Rustenburg, my home is in Rustenburg here in South Africa.
“[Laughs] People are getting confused, even my mom is from Zambia, they are both from that side. They came this side long ago. People are being confused thinking my mom is from this side and my dad is from Zambia but no, they are both from Zambia.
Does he see himself as South African or Zambian?
“[Laughs] Since everything has been confirmed now that I will be playing for Zambia, I’ll consider myself as a Zambian, I don’t have a choice. I was young when I used to visit Zambia, I don’t remember anything else, I was very young. I don’t really remember a lot from Zambia. I’m hoping for a warm welcome like they’ve been welcoming me on their social media page.” Chibwe explains how his teammate Salulani Phiri and Baroka FC coach Wedson Nyirenda convinced him to play for Zambia.
“I think it’s been easy for me because of my teammate Salu Phiri. Every game we’ve been playing in the PSL he’s been introducing me to some of the [Zambian] guys from SuperSport [United], the [Orlando] Pirates guys, the [Black] Leopard’s guys so… it’s just getting better because I’m getting to know them in South Africa, so at a national level it’s going to be easy for me to get used to them.
“You know growing up [Itumeleng] Khune helped me grow as I looked up to him a lot. So that’s why I’m saying it wasn’t a matter of saying no, I would love to be besides Khune, like you learn a lot from him, but for me Zambia came first and I was like ‘okay this is my opportunity, let me go and fulfil my dad’s dream, as well as my dream too’. But if by that time South Africa came first I wouldn’t want to lie, I would have chosen South Africa.
“When I was at Platinum Stars I was playing CAF [Confederation Cup], I played in Algeria and after that, they [Zambians] asked me about my surname and that’s when I explained. They came to our camp in Rustenburg, that’s when coach Wedson Nyirenda spoke to me you know like ‘Are you Chibwe’s son?’ I was like ja, he was like ‘You know I played with your dad I know him so just give me your number, I will be in contact with you, we might call you up as soon as possible’. That’s when I was at Platinum Stars.
“I think he got the Baroka job so he was not in the national team anymore, I think that’s when it went silent. So after then I came this side, so Phiri has been asking me, ‘Have they called you yet? Have they contacted you yet?’ So that’s how everything started.”
Did he consider which country he thought stood a better chance of regularly playing in World Cups and AFCONs between South Africa and Zambia?
“I didn’t consider that, but I know with national teams there’s an opportunity to go worldwide. But for me I think I didn’t really think about a lot of things like opportunities of playing World Cups or qualifiers, for me it was just an excitement that both the national teams recognised me so I was just like ‘Ah this is really a good thing’ [laughs].
“I don’t want to be biased but also Zambia stands a good chance of playing in a World Cup. Honestly speaking for now this is like the start of my career, so finances for now is not what I’m looking. For now, it’s just exposure, gain experience, grow as a player. That’s what I’m looking at for now.”