LOCAL soccer, it would seem, will always been spoilt for choice in the central midfield positions.
When German Reinhard Fabisch was the Warriors coach he built his team around unsung heroes such as the late Benjamin Nkonjera: a small, but gritty, workaholic holding player who laid a very solid foundation for the team.
Sunday Marimo took with him two very good midfield grafters to Zimbabwe’s maiden appearance at the African Nations Cup in Tunisia in 2004 in the form of Tinashe Nengomasha and Esrom Nyandoro.
It’s a big shame that when Brazilian Valinhos took over from Charles Mhlauri he ignored the obvious talent at his disposal, especially Dynamos’ Justice Majabvi who clearly should have been the first choice in that role given his terrific form for the Harare club.
Instead, Valinhos – very characteristic of him in the whole failed World Cup/Nations Cup campaign – was unadventurous, sticking with the same old players rather than fielding the form men. Â
One of his worst selections was Esrom Nyandoro, without a doubt below his best and cutting a pale shadow of the player he was a few years back.
Now, in retrospect, another player who would appear to have been overlooked in the disastrous campaign was Monomotapa captain Mthulisi Maphosa, who last Sunday produced a stellar performance to guide his club to the next stage of the African Champions League after a second leg first round 2-1 win over South Africans Ajax Cape Town.
If ever one wanted proof of Maphosa’s credentials to lead a team in the African safari, Rufaro Stadium last Sunday was as good a place as any to start looking.
In 90 minutes the Bulawayo-born central midfielder played his way into the hearts of thousands of Zimbabweans with the kind of performance associated only with classy players.
In 90 minutes he stood tall and stretched himself bigger than his lean built. Â
Time and again he went into tackles and emerged with the ball, passed it around with the confidence and great vision of a leading player. He was a bundle of energy, which rubbed off onto his teammates.
Before the match Monomotapa seemed like a lamb to the slaughter against the Capetonians amid reports of unrest in the team, but in their captain they found a willing shepherd – a driver of their dream.
One other player who could be crucial in their campaign is tall Darryl Nyandoro, a former Zimbabwe youth international. He didn’t exactly set the stage alight and would appear unworthy of special mention, but his far-in-between deft touches showed enough to suggest great promise. He provided a few anxious moments to the Ajax defence with the ball at his feet and back to goal, nimbly shaking off the defenders’ challenges – but then failing to finish off.
Nyandoro must be encouraged to make use of his frame more because he tended to lose the ball at the crucial moment before he could pull the trigger.
These two could well turn out to be the key men for Monoz in Africa.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO