BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
GERMAN-BASED forward Kelvin Lunga has spoken of his delight at the prospect of following in his father’s footsteps by representing Zimbabwe as he edges closer towards a maiden call-up to the Warriors ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo on March 24.
The 24-year-old son of former Zimbabwe international forward Max Makanza Lunga is expected to be in the yet-to-be announced Warriors squad for the important tie after Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare revealed that he is set to get his passport upon his arrival in the country later this month.
His father is widely considered as one of Zimbabwe’s finest football exports to Europe after a successful career with German side Bonner SC where he scored 41 goals in 188 games from 1990 to 1998.
The 54-year-old former Warriors and Dynamos forward also served as player-coach at other German lower-tier teams VfL Rheinbach between 1998-2001 and SSV Bornheim (2001-2005) before his retirement at the age of 41.
While Lunga Snr has now turned to full-time coaching as Under-15 coach of fifth-tier side FC Hennef 05, his son Kelvin has been steadily making a name for himself in the lower leagues of German football.
Lunga, who plays for German fourth-tier side SV Rödinghausen, told StandardSport in an interview last week that his father was the biggest influence in his career and was relishing the chance to follow in his footsteps by playing for his country of birth.
“I was born on May 11, 1994 in Bonn, Germany, and being born in a family where my father was a professional footballer, I started playing football at a very young age. In fact, I started playing when I was three years old,” Lunga said.
“My father was and still remains a very big influence in my career. We always talk about his time when he had his career. He helps me a lot and is always giving me advice and guidance on what I can change on my game.
“I’m hopeful that I will get my Zimbabwean passport soon, which would make me eligible to play for my country. It’s still work in progress, but I’m sure it will go fine. Representing Zimbabwe like what my father did would be a dream come true for me.”
A skilful right winger with an eye for goal, Lunga Jnr, who can also play wide in midfield or as a striker, started his career at TSV Germania Windeck in 2013.
A year later he would soon retrace his father’s footsteps by joining the youth football system of Bonner SC where his father is considered a legend.
Bonner SC has been home to several Zimbabwean players because of Lunga Snr’s early impact which paved the way for the likes of Farai Mbidzo, George Mbwando and Henry McKop, who all featured for the German club during their professional careers.
From Bonner SC, Lunga Jnr moved to the Under-23 side of former Bundesliga outfit FC Cologne in July 2015, but a cruciate ligament injury hampered his progress before returning to Bonner SC a year later.
His second stint at Bonner SC, however, lasted only a year as he soon left to join fellow Regionalliga West side SV Rödinghausen, where he has been playing the best football of his promising career.
Lunga, who speaks German, English and “a bit of” Ndebele and Shona, has been enjoying a steady season making 18 appearances and scoring three goals in the Regionalliga West, where his side sits third on the log standings.
“My season has been going well, but it could have been better. I was injured at the beginning of the season but I have managed to come back in the side, we are currently third in the league which is good, but we will see where we end up at the end of the season,” he said.
The highlight of Lunga’s career, thus far, came four months ago when his side played German football giants Bayern Munich in the second round of the DFB-Pokal, the premier knockout football cup competition in that country.
The Zimbabwean played the entire 90 minutes and managed to provide an assist to teammate Linus Meyer as his side narrowly lost the match 2-1.
“Playing against Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup was the highlight of my career so far. I was a bit nervous before the game and 20 minutes into the match I was scared because they played very fast and clever,” Lunga said.
“After we conceded the second goal, I thought I had nothing to lose and wanted to play my normal game.
“We eventually lost 2-1, but at the end we were happy because we gave Bayern some big problems and personally I was delighted because I had a good game and provided an assist for our goal.”