BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Former Warriors defender Costa Nhamoinesu has been recognised by UEFA as the most capped Zimbabwean footballer in European club competitions.
Nhamoinesu, who spent seven years at Czech Republic giants Sparta Prague, made 41 appearances in two of the biggest European clubs competitions — the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League — with the club.
Last week UEFA published varying statistics of African footballers in their competitions including most appearances, top scorers, first Africans to win related competitions and most appearances by nation, among other records.
The only other Zimbabwean to be recognised was legendary former Liverpool and Highlanders goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who is the first African player to win or feature in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup final.
Grobbelaar starred in Liverpool’s penalty shootout triumph over Roma in the 1983/84 season.
However, there was also some worthy recognition for the now India-based Nhamoinesu due to the number of appearances he gained in European football competitions during his time at Sparta Prague.
The 35-year-old defender, who helped Sparta Prague reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League six years ago, took to social media to celebrate his achievement.
“Proud to have represented my country in football world at higher levels (41 appearances in UEFA club competitions) with @ACSparta_CZ. Urging all current Zimbabwean players on top, let’s keep pushing and help to create more opportunities for young talents,” he said yesterday.
Nhamoinesu left Sparta Prague last year after making 203 appearances for the club in all competitions.
The Zimbabwean joined Indian league side Kerala Blasters last year and has already been promoted to captain of the club where he is assisted by Sergio Cidoncha and Jessel Carneiro.
So far Nhamoinesu has played in 16 of the club’s matches in Indian football and has already scored two league goals for the struggling side.
A number of former and current players have featured in Europe’s club competitions including Norman Mapeza, Energy Murambadoro, Benjani Mwaruwari and Marvelous Nakamba.
The Turkey-based duo of Alec Mudimu and Teenage Hadebe have both recently played in the qualifiers for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League respectively. On 94, Ivorian Didier Drogba has the most appearances by an African national in the UEFA Champions League (including qualifying) during his illustrious career with Marseille, Chelsea and Galatasaray.
Cameroonian football legend Samuel Eto’o featured 82 times for Real Madrid, Mallorca, Barcelona, Internazionale and Chelsea, and Michael Essien from Ghana made 76 appearances for Lyon, Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Drogba’s 44 goals makes him the top-scoring African national while Eto’o found the net 33 times, and Egyptian Mohamed Salah, currently active with Liverpool, is on 30 goals in Europe’s premier club competition.
The Ivorian also rules the roost in both competitions with a combined total of 50, two ahead of his nemesis Eto’o and Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 38 goals.
South African Derek Smethurst was the first African to win a UEFA club competition after he helped Chelsea to a 3–2 aggregate win over Real Madrid in the 1971 European Cup Winners’ Cup.