The Sunday Mail
THEY say experience is the best teacher.
For Marvelous Nakamba, when it came to sourcing tips on life in the fast lane of the English Premier Soccer League, there was no better mentor than the legendary Peter Ndlovu.
Nakamba, who has eight starts so far for Aston Villa and is the only player from Southern Africa in the world’s best league, has also been chatting a lot with former Portsmouth and Manchester City forward Benjani Mwaruwari.
Interestingly, both Peter and Benjani are also former Warriors captains.
The 25-year-old Nakamba made his English Premiership debut on September 16, 2019 — over 22 years after Ndlovu made the historical move to the Premiership.
Ndlovu joined Coventry City in 1992, two years before Nakamba was born.
He made over 100 appearances for “The Sky Blues”, before moving to Birmingham City, Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town on loan.
The retired Ndlovu was the first African player to join the English Premiership and remains one of the longest serving players to have played in that league.
“The moment my move to Aston Villa was finalised, the great Peter Ndlovu came into my mind. I knew he was the one to give me advice and tips on to how to handle myself in the EPL, he told me what to expect in this league,” Nakamba told The Sunday Mail Sport.
ln January 2006, Mwaruwari was a record signing for then EPL side Portsmouth when he joined Pompey from Auxerre for 4.1 million pounds, before he moved to Manchester City two years later.
Nakamba now carries the mantle and the Hwange born star has not disappointed so far.
He has become a key member for the Zimbabwe senior team.
On Friday night, he had a commanding midfield show for the Warriors who however fired blacks in a goalless draw against Botswana in their opening 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Cup qualifier.
He returned home last Tuesday with a new tag – that of being the Warrior with the highest profile.
Much now rests on his shoulders as Zimbabwe aim for a third straight Afcon finals appearance.
“It’s my first season in the English Premier League and I am learning a lot because I am playing with top players week in week out.
“It gives me motivation to excel further. The fact that millions of Zimbabweans are now watching me on TV motivates me further.
“My family members usually call me whenever I play, telling me what people back home are saying about my performances. In football you get better with time and there is always room for improvement,” Nakamba said.
He made his EPL debut when Aston Villa drew 0-0 against West Ham on September 16. Since then, Nakamba has made eight straight starts for The Claret and Blue Army.
Nakamba is one of the few African players playing regularly in the EPL, alongside the Liverpool duo of Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt.)
In fact, Mane, Salah, Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal, Adama Traore of Wolverhampton and the Crystal Palace trio of Jordan Ayew, Cheikou Kouyate and Wilfried Zaha are the only Africans with more EPL starts than Nakamba.
“All this wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the support I am getting from Zimbabwean football legends Peter (Ndlovu) and Mwaruwari.
“I speak a lot with them, they send me messages after matches, sometimes before crucial matches, giving me tips.
“They have been there for me, Zimbabwean fans have been there for me. Africa has also been behind me and I am grateful,” said Nakamba.
He was not overawed by the occasion when Aston Villa played English giants Manchester City and Liverpool early this month.
Nakamba revealed that he even got some plaudits from some Manchester City players when his side lost 0-3 at the Etihad on October 26.
There was also time for some jokes with Brazilian star forward Firmino when Villa lost 1-2 against Liverpool on November 2.
“I can’t really remember what the joke (with Firmino) was about, it was in the heat of the game and he said something funny and we laughed it off.
“Those guys are real professionals, they will tell you their mind. After the Man City game, the City players were telling me I had a good game. I was humbled.”
However, the Bantu Rovers product has switched his focus towards Zimbabwe’s 2021 Afcon qualifiers for now.
“I didn’t have a good outing in the previous finals in Egypt because of injury, so naturally the 2021 finals in Cameroon mean a lot to me.
“We have to take each and every game as it comes, we need to focus and it’s time to work for our nation.
“I am sure positive results will come.”
After playing Zambia on Tuesday, Zimbabwe will travel to play African champions Algeria on August 31, 2020 for their third match in Group H.