insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
THERE are bright and exciting times ahead for Zimbabwean football as the country continues to have more and more players in recognised leagues across the globe.
The composition of the Warriors right now with players coming from the English Premiership, the French Ligue 1, The Belgian Pro-League, the Turkish Süper Lig and the English Championship is just an example of how the Zimbabwean game is moving forward.
This is in contrast to back in the 80s when Zimbabwe had to call on only Bruce Grobbelaar, who was starring for Liverpool in the English Premiership or in the 90s when Zimbabwe only had Peter Ndlovu in that Premiership and Norman Mapeza in the Turkish League, where he played for top club Galatasaray.
Although there is not yet one Zimbabwean footballer in the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, nor in the Spanish La Liga, it is the direction Zimbabwean football is heading to, which is very encouraging.
Marvelous Nakamba leads the current cast with Aston Villa in the English Premiership not forgetting Marshall Munetsi, who plies his trade for Stade Reims in the French Ligue 1 and was the star of the show when his club pushed Paris St Germain to the limit before settling for a 3-3 draw.
There is also Warriors captain Knowledge Musona, who is with top Belgian club Anderlecht — although with limited appearances, and so too is ‘Mr Passport’, Teenage Hadebe, who is in the Turkish topflight with Yeni Malatyaspor where Mapeza got both fame and fortune.
Big Alec Mudimu is in Wales, where he plays for one of the top teams in that country’s Premiership CEFN Druids.
There are also chances that Macauley Bonne, who is with Charlton Athletic in the English Championship could one day break into the Premiership and not mentioning Tendai Darikwa, who is with Nottingham Forest in the same division.
A team of locally based Warriors have also qualified for the 2020 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) finals in Cameroon in June and with that they have the opportunity to impress and also get the tickets to play for better clubs in Europe.
In fact, there has been a change in focus from the past when Zimbabwean footballers saw South Africa as their final destination but these days they are looking more and more to Europe as to where their football future lies, and where their bread is buttered.
Hats off to institutions like Bantu Rovers and the Aces Youth Academy, which continue to roll out exceptional talent on the local scene, that coming after the academy produced arguably Zimbabwe’s best player at the moment, Khama Billiart and of course Knowledge Musona
However, South Africa still remains the springboard for Zimbabwean footballers to get their chance to move to Europe since the South African Absa Premiership has more international attention than the Zimbabwean Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.
More plaudits should also go to player managers and agents like Gibson Mahachi, who have been very influential in making sure that Zimbabwe has a lot of players plying their trade in foreign lands, where they are not only earning a good living but are also getting the experience, which they then use in Warriors colours.
Mahachi has been the reason why Hadebe, Tino Kadewere, Knox Mtizwa, Kuda Mahachi, Divine Lunga, Danny Phiri, Elvis Chipezeze, Onismor Bhasera, Terence Dzukamanja, Kelvin and Elvis Moyo, are where they are right now.
It should also be placed on record that Edward Sadomba, Justice Majabvi, and Nyasha Mushekwi were all under Mahachi’s management before they went to enjoy the fame and fortune that they are proud of today.
Mahachi has not been limited to player management alone as he has also played his part in ensuring the success that local coaches Norman Mapeza, Kalisto Pasuwa, and Sunday Chidzambwa, have enjoyed both on the domestic scene and abroad.
Unfortunately, there are few agents of Mahachi’s calibre in Zimbabwean football right now and those in the same job in the United Kingdom appear to have other interests apart from giving the talented Zimbabwean players the chance to make it both at club and national team level.
Whatever, the case is, it is encouraging that the outside world is beginning to have a dig in on Zimbabwean players due to the performances of those who have already made it in foreign lands.
What, however, needs to be avoided is the system of pushing locally based talents to move to foreign clubs before they have even matured or played for at least three seasons on the domestic scene. This is something that destroyed the future of players like Evans Gwekwerere, Simba Nhivi, and Roderick Mutuma, who went early to South Africa and were big flops there.
Gwekwerere, for example, was forced by the lure of the South African rand after sparkling for Dynamos for a season or probably half a season and the results were there for everyone to see as he was a big disappointment in South African football.
Given the manner in which he got past defenders so easily, and grabbed spectacular goals, Gwekwerere needed at least two or three years on the domestic scene and by now, the former Dynamos striker could have been in Europe instead of the wayside he is today.
The Gwekwerere problem seems to be getting worse these days as each year, most players, who make it among the 11 finalists for the Castle Soccer Star of the Year depart for South Africa after playing only for a season in Zimbabwe, — which is not enough in building confidence to play in a foreign land.
Gwekwerere was a talent lost due to ‘love for quick money’ but what is on the ground right now is that Zimbabwe has quality players good enough to compete and beat the best in Africa and secure a place at the 2022 World Cup finals.
What is now needed is a Warriors coach, who can put the disparate elements together for the rewards to come. With the players available and others waiting on the wings to get their chance, Zimbabwe is headed for a bright and exciting football future.
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