Having to endure the sub-zero Russian winter and more cruelly an Eastern Europe infected with racism, Zimbabwean striker Musa Mguni would only hope to find solace when he is around his countrymen.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
But alas, his country would return to haunt him, something that might push him into early retirement from the game of football, which has earned him fame and fortune.
During his comeback match for the Warriors whom he had last featured for in 2004, Mguni on February 29 last year seriously twisted his knee while landing from a mid-air tussle for possession in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier first round match against Burundi away in Bujumbura.
But the Terek Grozny striker’s worst nightmare was yet to come.
With damaged ligaments which sidelined him for more than a year, a cash-strapped Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), who were supposed to pick up the bill, could not even wish him a speedy recovery.
Turning to Grozny for help, Mguni was told by the club that it was Zifa’s obligation to pay for all medical expenses that stemmed from hospital bills, air fares and hotel accommodation since he was injured while on national duty.
The lanky forward was to face the grim reality of personally footing the medical bill of around 70 000 euro (around US$92 000) that started with an operation in Germany on June 14 last year.
The operation was immediately followed by a rehabilitation programme in France, before returning to Russia late October, where he started training with Grozny the following month.
To make matters worse, Grozny did not register the 29-year-old for the current campaign despite having a running contract with him that expires in August next year.
Following this frustrating moment, the towering striker now has a frosty relationship with both club and country and has already roped in world football governing body Fifa to help him get compensation.
“This has been the worst period of my career. Everything is frustrating here. I feel dumped by both my club and country,” said Mguni.
“There are more unfavourable things that I should be worried about when I am very far away from home other than being let down by my own countrymen. For example, the cold Russian weather is unbearable,” he said.
“The other big problem is that of racism. It is better in Moscow though but other cities are hell to go to as people look at you as if they have never seen a black person before. I am now used to the monkey chants and banana throwing. If they can do that to Samuel Eto’o, then what about me? I am God’s creation, even if I am black. I am proud to be Zimbabwean and African.”
Having started training two months ago, the former Motor Action player, who has been in the country since the festive holidays, is this week expected to fly to Germany for the final scan on his knee and expects to be ready to play in two weeks’ time.
But he has expressed unwillingness to return to the Chechens, as Grozny are affectionately known in Russia.
How mguni ended up in Russia
Mguni’s ability to win the hearts of world football legends might earn him another big-club move.
He was brought to Russia in February 2011 by former World Player of the Year, Chelsea and AC Milan legend Ruud Gullit after a scoring performance during Grozny’s friendly match against his previous Ukrainian club Metalurh Donetsk.
In 2010, legendary Andriy Shevchenko had tipped Mguni to take Ukraine by storm.
“I have always tried to become a better player. Now I feel I have grown up mentally and in all other aspects of the game but unfortunately this injury was a major drawback in my career. It was good that I was playing in the Russian league which is very tough with the game there being more physical and requires a strong mentality as well,” Mguni said.
The former Orlando Pirates striker also had a three-season stint at Cyprian side AC Omonia as well as Al Shabab of United Arab Emirates.