On September 6 at Rufaro Stadium, Costa Nhamoinesu — of Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic — had difficulties walking out of the stadium after enchanting Zimbabwean football lovers with a brilliant show they had not seen for years.
Nhamoinesu was strong in the air, hard on the tackle and intercepted the ball with remarkable efficiency, and in the process, convinced the huge paying public that they were honoured to have a player like him.
His splendid display on that balmy Sunday afternoon, compared to the huge South Africa-based players’ presence, opened eyes to the fact that Zimbabwe needs more players like him if the Warriors are to regain football respect across the width and breadth of the African continent.
In fact, after the not-so-good display from the South Africa-based players, what came out of that Africa Cup of Nations encounter against the Syli Nationale was that Zimbabwe needs more players that ply their trade in Europe to be able to compete at the highest level, be it in Africa or on the global stage.
Instead of exporting players to South Africa, our players’ managers and agents should concentrate their efforts more on moves to Europe.
What more evidence do we need that the South African game has gone off the boil than their own national team’s humiliating 3-1 defeat at the hands of little Mauritania?
Nhamoinesu also opened eyes to the reality that the best football players are not only found in the La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Lique 1, or the Barclays Premiership, but also in other leagues, which we unfortunately do not pay much attention to.
On that premise, our players do not have to look at the top leagues as their destination, but to other leagues in Europe. These could be in the Netherlands, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Scotland, or even in Norway, where they are guaranteed of regular play.
The task to ensure that this becomes a reality lies with the Fifa-registered player agents and managers who negotiate the foreign deals for our players.
These are the behind-the- scenes modern workhorses of football. They build strong relationships with clubs to the extent that when they recommend a player, he is accepted, and at times without having to undergo trials.
They can either make the right or at times wrong decision for a player, as happened to Knowledge Musona. Instead of deciding on a move to Celtic in Scotland, Musona’s handlers opted for TSG Hoffeinheim in German — a move that nearly destroyed the player’s career.
Gibson Mahachi is the most recognised Fifa-registered Zimbabwean player agent. He has done a lot in getting our players the best of deals with South African and European clubs.
Mahachi remains an unsung hero despite the fact that most of the players he has signed outside the country have come back home to use the experience gained to the benefit of our national teams.
As the only baton-carrying man in his field, Mahachi manages most of Zimbabwe’s foreign- based players, and I, for one, admire the man for what he has done not only for our players, but for Zimbabwean football as a whole.
However, I am still convinced that Mahachi can still do more. With his connections, he needs to get us more and more players in Europe instead of South Africa.
Former Warriors player Edzai Kasinauyo has also done well in negotiating deals for local players to go abroad. But now, they should focus more on other leagues besides those in South Africa.
It is a fact that the most successful African football teams succeeded as a result of the input of their European exports.
The teams that reached the quarter finals of the World Cup — Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010 — all did so on the strength of the performance of their Europe-based players.
Egypt, whose players are drawn from their domestic league, appears to be the most successful African football team. But in reality that is not the case.
The Pharaohs might have a record seven Africa Cup of Nations titles to their belt, but on the World stage they have failed to come close to the achievements of the talent-exporting West African nations.
The Pharaohs’ only World Cup qualification came in 1990 and, for the record, they were knocked out in the first round. Their earlier participation in 1934 was not through qualification, but by invitation.
However, as Zimbabweans, we do not have to continue talking about the exploits of other African nations. We need other nations to be talking about the achievements of our own Warriors.
But that will not happen as long as we only have one or two recognised players in Europe. We need more Nhamoinesus if we are to achieve our football goals.
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