Vitalis Chikoko: Africa’s first MVP in French basketball history

Vitalis Chikoko: Africa’s first MVP in French basketball history

Zimbabwean basketball sensation Vitalis Chikoko has rewritten the history books in France, clinching both the French Cup and the coveted Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the second time, marking an unprecedented achievement for an African player.

His stellar performance with JDA Dijon, including a standout 20-point contribution, underscores his exceptional talent and commitment to the sport, setting a new standard of excellence.

Chikoko’s journey, from his early days in Germany to his current prominence in the French basketball scene, serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring players across Africa, solidifying his status as a premier athlete in the highly competitive arena of professional basketball.

We caught up with Vitalis Chikoko (VC) for an exclusive. *Makhosini Mpofu (MM)

MM: Can you describe the emotions you felt when your team, JDA Dijon, won the French Cup, and you were named the Most Valuable Player for the second time?

VC: It was a déjà vu moment because just 2 years back l was standing in the same arena, after winning the same championship battle and sharing the victory-joy with the fans in the stands. When the final whistle blew, l joined my teammates in celebration for the win, then my name was called out as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the realisation that l had won if for the 2nd time was amazing. I was both humbled and in awe of God leading me to win the title for the second time, potentially making me the only African if not the only player in history to win the MVP title twice.

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MM: What do you attribute to your stellar performance during the Coupe de France 2024 tournament, particularly your 20-point game that led to your team’s victory?

VC: Many things contributed. 1st of all PRAYER-prayer has a way of calming my nerves when l get into any games especially games with high stakes like the just ended Coupe de France final.

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Focus- I wanted to win so bad. Qualifying for the final meant that we were doing something right and that we were a formidable team. I did not want to just come that far and lose it. I knew this moment was the moment to make all the hardwork count and l am glad l had teammates who shared the same energy so we made a collective effort to bring the cup home.

My wife Nyarie- She is my best and my worst critic. She says it like it is she has a way of critiquing yet encouraging me. She is my prayer partner and she comes through

Family and friends- I have a very supportive family. Especially my two kids Nashe-Vitalis and Anaya-Lucy the joy and excitement everytime they see me on the court is enough motivation to perform my best. I also had messages of encouragement coming from most of my family members and friends and this added fuel to my performance.

MM: As the first African player to win the French Cup and be named MVP twice, how does it feel to make history in such a significant way?

VC: It’s a blessing and a responsibility which l do not take for granted. Winning it the first time was great but winning it twice and making history is unbelievably thrilling. Making my country and my family proud with the hope that the milestones l am reaching now will open doors to other Zimbabwean and African basketball players and athletes.

MM: Your achievements in basketball are inspiring to many young players. What advice would you give to aspiring athletes who dream of reaching similar heights in their careers?

VC:When preparation meets opportunity, you become unstoppable. So in the meantime, prepare, prepare abnd prepare so that when your moment comes, it finds you ready. Never give up in the process of preparing. In all you do, always put God first.

MM: How do you balance individual achievement, as a team and your growing family?

VC:You can’t separate the two. My family is the driving force behind all my achievements, without them l believe wouldn’t be making the strides l am making. So my family comes first then everything else follows and falls in line.

MM: What does representing Zimbabwe on the international basketball stage mean to you, and how does it influence your approach to the game?

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VC: Like l said above, it comes with a bigger responsibility, I am proudly Zimbabwean, so l know everything l do is putting our flag on the map. It’s sad that there are very few Zimbabweans who’ve made it to bigger leagues for example l am currently the only one playing in the pro-A in Europe-that’s not good. I look forward to a day where Zimbabwean Basketball talent will be recognised and in thriving leagues. More importantly, l hope l will achieve enough to convince the powers that be and other capable institutions to invest in the Zimbabwean Basketball leagues to elevate it to competitive and lucrative levels. I want Zimbabwe or Zimbabwean clubs to compete against other countries and be a powerhouse in those competitions. So everytime l am on the court, l play for the little boy and little girl in Zimbabwe who hopes to thrive through Basketball.

MM: What motivates you to continue pushing yourself and striving for excellence, both on and off the court?

VC: My family. Primarily my kids to have a better future than l had growing up. I hope they have it easier than me. I also want to be a good role model to those who look up to me.

MM: Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for your basketball career, and how do you plan to continue making an impact in the sport?

VC:To win as many championships as l can. As the current Zimbabwen Basketball national team captain, l hope to bring Zimbabwe back to the Afro-Basket. Afro-Basket is a big platform which presents a good opportunity for Zimbabwean players to be scouted to other leagues.

Getting young talented players to nurture their talents till they reach their full potential and succeed.

Dijon vs Strasbourg – Finale Coupe de France

Chikoko’s triumph on the court not only brings glory to Zimbabwe but also serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring basketball players across the African continent. His remarkable journey stands as a testament to the power of perseverance and determination in the pursuit of excellence.

Makhosini Mpofu

Experienced Co-Founder with a demonstrated history of working in the automotive industry. Skilled in Marketing Management, Negotiation, Business Planning, Operations Management, and Analytical Skills. Also the Music & Entertainment Reporter with My Afrika Magazine.

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