PLAYING football in a foreign land has many challenges, among them being the language barrier.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
And suppose you are a Shona-speaking Zimbabwean playing in South Africa, what are the odds of playing under a Shona-speaking coach?
But Warriors and Supersport United marksman Evans Rusike has been that lucky since he made a sensational move from Maritzburg United during the January transfer window to join Zimbabwean coach Kaitano Tembo.
And he has made it count.
The former Zimbabwe Saints and Hwange striker has already scored three goals in four matches and perches on top of the Super Diski goalscorers’ charts.
A proven goalscorer in the South African Premiership for the past few seasons, Rusike is already being tipped to run away with the golden boot.
He reveals the secret to his impressive start to the season.
“I think playing under a Zimbabwean coach, Kaitano Tembo, has helped me a lot. I am really enjoying working under him and it’s really nice to have a home coach away from home. Sometimes he explains things better in Shona and it becomes easy to understand what he wants,” Rusike told The Sports Hub.
“Tembo is a very good coach in charge of a very big team. I am looking forward to a great season and achieving great things. I am really enjoying playing football in South Africa since I came here.
“It has been a great start to the season and I have been scoring, but it also comes with challenges. It also means I have to keep on scoring and teams begin to plan against me.
But I understand that I have to work hard to keep on banging them. It would be nice to win the top goalscorer award, but for me, the team comes first,” he added.
Former Warriors stars Onismor Bhasera and goalkeeper Washington Arubi are the other Zimbabweans on the Matsatsantsa books.
However, Rusike has so far been a cut above the rest and Tembo believes he can only get better.
“That’s what we expect from him. He’s a very important player for us‚” Tembo‚ the accomplished former SuperSport United and Warriors centreback‚ said of his young charge and follow countryman Rusike recently.
“He struggled a little bit when he joined us because he needed time as well to try and adjust to the environment — to our structure and to our way of playing.
“But now you can see — he knows what we expect from him and he’s starting to deliver.”
Standing in for the in-form China-based hitman Nyasha Mushekwi, who was unavailable due to health issues, Rusike was the key striker for Zimbabwe in a crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier draw away to Congo in Brazzaville last weekend.
However, he had a disappointing outing by his lofty standards as he failed to open his account in the current Afcon qualifiers but his contribution was immense.
“The first thing for us is to qualify for Afcon and for us to qualify we have to take it one game at a time and the most important game is the next one we play. I think any footballer would always want to represent their country and for me it’s a dream come true just to be part of this team,” said the 28-year-old striker.
How the Chitungwiza-born player’s career blossomed remains a miracle to him.
Despite his obvious talent as he grew up, he was never an ambitious kind of player. He was content just to play football whenever he had an opportunity.
Until his first break into the local premier league aged 22 in 2012 with Zimbabwe Saints, he had only played social soccer.
“It all started in Chitungwiza where I was playing for Dynamic Rangers Academy. I played for a long time for this academy despite the fact that a lot of people kept on saying I should play Division One or Two. But luckily for me, I skipped all those stages of lower division football and went straight into the Premier Soccer League (PSL),” Rusike recalled.
“I think signing my first professional contract was my first big break and since then I have seen the grace of God. It was at Zimbabwe Saints; I fondly remember that stage because I was a bit young and I would be travelling all the way to Bulawayo,” he continued.
He scored on his debut, which was a just foretaste of what was to come.
“It took me six months training with the team before I was even registered, waiting for the window period. I also scored in my first game in the PSL playing against Hwange and it’s something I will never forget,” Rusike said.
What was his big dream when he started?
“I never really had big dreams. When I signed my first contract I did not even aim to play, I was content just to sit on the bench and watch others play and wait for a chance.
By the grace of God I got a chance, coming on as a substitute I actually scored. It gave me a lot of confidence going forward,” he said.
Since then, Rusike has scored goals for fun and after failing to rescue Zimbabwe Saints from relegation, Rusike joined Hwange before Maritzburg snapped him up in 2015.
In 90 premier league appearances in South Africa, Rusike has netted 24 goals, four of them for his current club, Supersport.
An avid follower of Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church, Rusike is married to Petra and the couple is blessed with a son Sean, who will probably follow in his father’s footsteps.