Former Warriors coach Norman Mapeza has recalled his experience in the UEFA Champions League with Galatasaray, describing it as the ‘peak of his career.’
The 48-year-old tactician is one of the few Zimbabwean players to have graced the Champions League, and has opened up on the feeling of playing in the competition, which he took part in with the Turkish giants in the 1994-95 season.
“When I first went to Poland, I was afraid of snow. It was the first time I saw snow and I could not get out of the house. It was a good time for my career, it was the first time in Europe. The following year I received a proposal from Galatasaray and I ran to the running. I played in the Champions League against Barcelona and Manchester United,” he told Polish newspaper Futbol Arsiv.
“It was the peak of my career … Everyone wanted to play in these games. And let me remind you, then entering the Champions League was much more difficult than it is now, because only 16 teams could play at that time, not 32. This was an incredible feeling.”
“Then there were stars like Romario, Koeman or Guardiola, but none of them were Messi. There was no cliff between us. We were able to fight against Barcelona at breakeven. First of all, we had more experience. We lost to Barcelona with only 2-1 in Camp Nou.” he added.
Other Zimbabwean players to have played in Europe’s premier club competition include Benjani Mwaruwari with AJ Auxerre and Marvelous Nakamba when he was still at Club Brugge.