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Munetsi bares soul

BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

WARRIORS and Stade de Reims midfielder Marshall Munetsi made just 37 appearances in all competitions for South African football giants Orlando Pirates in three years.

In fact, it was difficult for the gifted Zimbabwe international to break into the Pirates first team and he had to accept a role as a defender for him to make his mark.

And whatever he did in those 37 matches was enough to convince French side Reims to sign the player, who went on to make 21 starts in his debut season in Ligue 1.

The 23-year-old midfielder, who recently signed a contract extension, which is set to keep him at Reims until 2020, for the first time reflected on his time as a Buccaneer.

“When I went to Pirates I think that was the time when Eric Tinkler had left and there was Muhsin (Ertugral), he made it clear that he had no intention of playing me so they loaned me to Baroka,” Munetsi said on famed South African sports caster Robert Marawa’s weekly simulcast Sport radio show Marawa Sport Worldwide on Wednesday.

“Baroka was a young team that I got a chance to play a lot of games and I think I had about three goals. “When I returned to Pirates there was another change in the coaching department when Micho (Milutin Sredojevi) was coming in.

“At that time I think I also tried to go to Ajax Cape Town, but the deal fell through so obviously when coach Micho was there they had their own players and they had their own ambitions, so I had to sit out six months in the 2017/18 season without being registered or playing,” Munetsi said.

“It was a huge blow for me personally as a player as I was trying to make some strides after Baroka. And when they finally gave me a chance they said they wanted to use me as a central defender, but for me personally I just wanted to play and I didn’t really care where I would be playing. “After that a lot of people thought I was a centre-back,” he said.

Munetsi joined then South African First National Division side FC Cape Town from Friendly Academy in Harare.

And at FC Cape Town he was immediately celebrated as a player in the mould of former Ivory Coast and Manchester City star Yaya Toure, but Pirates made him realise that he was never going to get the same reputation on a silver platter.

Against all odds, Munetsi broke into the French top-flight league in June last year and he did not disappoint.

“But coming to Stade de Reims they didn’t sign me as a defender. “They made it very clear that they had been tracking my improvement since I was at Baroka and also for the Zim national team so they wanted me to play as a midfielder.

“It was a new challenge for me in a new continent and I had to make sure that I quickly adjust to the demands. I got into a team that had a lot of young players with a very good coach and they really helped me to settle down and the rest is history.

“We enjoyed ourselves and the season was fantastic and obviously we didn’t finish it the way we wanted, but we made some good strides than what the team had achieved the previous season,” Munetsi said.

The Zimbabwean recently helped Reims qualify for next season’s Europa League with a sixth-place finish following a premature end to the league race in France.

Munetsi was not keen to reveal the details of his new Reims contract.

“Obviously things would be slightly better than before. I am just happy because the club showed faith in me. “We had a difficult situation before I signed (last year), but Orlando Pirates helped me to make the right decision because there were a couple of offers that were there. And for Reims to show faith in me, a young player who was not really playing at Pirates is amazing,” he said.

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