Polish cup holders Legia Warszawa currently lie second in the domestic top flight, just a single point off leaders Lech Poznan. However, champions Wisla Kraków and promoted Polonia Warszawa also lurk a mere three points off the pace, as the title race enters a potentially thrilling climax. FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Legia hitman Takesure Chinyama, the leading marksman in the Ekstraklasa this term.
"My biggest problem at the start was the weather. Communication was a bit tricky as well, because there’s not a lot of English spoken in Poland. But I can speak some Polish now, and I’m nicely settled," Chinyama reflects, after arriving in the Ekstraklasa from Zimbabwe in 2006. The player initially signed for Groclin Wielkopolski, and celebrated a double trophy success in his first full season in the European game. It comes as little surprise to find that the man nicknamed 'Chiny' by his team-mates recalls that period of his career with great fondness. "It was my first club in Europe, and we went on to win the Polish Cup and the League Cup. I definitely associate the club with my most successful period in Poland to date," the 26-year-old says.
Switch to Legia
Naturally enough, the domestic scouts were soon on the trail of the 1.84m Zimbabwe international. In the summer of 2007, Chinyama made the switch to Legia, one of Poland’s most famous and successful clubs. The nine-time champions had finished the 2006/07 campaign a disappointing third and missed out on Europe, so 'Chiny' was brought in to help rectify the situation the following season.
"I’d actually had a trial with Legia before then, although I didn’t make the grade. But once I got going with Groclin, people saw what I was capable of. The club wanted me, and I wanted to continue my development, which is why I chose to go to Legia. I’m very pleased now, because the transfer has helped me come on a really long way," the striker told FIFA.com.
Chinyama’s first season in Poland brought a cup winners' medal, and he doubled his tally in the competition at the end of his second Polish campaign. Legia finished the league season a sobering 14 points adrift of Wisla Kraków, but gained a measure of revenge with a penalty shoot-out victory over the champions in the cup final.
One reason why the likeable striker has settled to life at the country’s biggest club with some ease is the presence of Chinyama's fellow countryman Dickson Choto. "He’s like a brother to me. Dickson has played a massive role for me personally. He helped me a lot when I arrived in the country, he showed me how you're expected to deal with people in Europe, how you talk to them, and how to handle myself in public. He’s been in Europe for seven years now, and I’m following in his footsteps," Chinyama declares in appreciation of his team-mate.
More to come?
Chinyama has already netted 29 goals in 48 top flight appearances for Legia. After 22 games in the current campaign, the Zimbabwe front man is already within an ace of beating his 15-goal haul from last season. He currently tops the Ekstraklasa scoring charts on 14 goals, but he remains a committed team player, and a model of modesty too.
"It’ll be very difficult to win the league this season, so I can't say I'm entirely satisfied. I'll only be able to say that once we've won trophies. We're utterly determined to win the league, and I'm convinced we have what it takes to do so, provided we don't pick up too many injuries," Chinyama observes.
Praise for Africa
Chinyama only appeared twice for his country in 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, where he failed to score and was unable to prevent his side from being eliminated. However, the ambitious goal-getter has set his sights high for the future: "I’m still young, and my time will come. My goal is for us to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. That's when I want to represent my country."
First of all, Chinyama will witness the first FIFA World Cup finals on African soil. The striker is already looking forward to the biggest single-sport event ever to be staged in Africa. "It’ll be an unforgettable event for all Africans. I'll be old and grey one day, but my sons will still be talking about this World Cup. Staging this event is a massive success for all of Africa," concludes Chiny with his eyes fixed firmly on the future.