Zimbabwe players miss out on transfers

04 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Zimbabwe players miss out on transfers

The Sunday Mail

Langton Nyakwenda

EXACTLY 16 years ago, former Zimbabwe national football team captain Benjani Mwaruwari made a sensational deadline-day move from Portsmouth to Manchester City, in a deal that was worth £3,87 million.

After City had failed to clinch the signing of Mwaruwari on January 31, 2008, the English Premier League approved a late transfer deal on February 5.

The Zimbabwean was to complete one of the most talked-about transfers of that mid-season window.

“I am delighted that we have signed such a quality player, and I am looking forward to working with him straight away,” then-Man City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson told The Mirror (UK). That deal is still remembered at Manchester City, and the reigning English and European champions posted this message on X last week: “#OnThisDay in 2008, we signed Benjani!”

Mwaruwari’s deadline move remains one of the most dramatic transfers in the history of the Premier League’s January transfer window.

Although there is usually little movement during the mid-season window in many leagues around the world, especially those that use the August-May calendar, some Zimbabwean players have made big moves during this period over the years.

Marvelous Nakamba found an escape route via this window in January 2023.

After a largely forgettable spell at Aston Villa, Nakamba was loaned to Luton Town, who were fighting for Premiership promotion.

When The Hatters achieved their goal in May, albeit via the Championship playoffs, Nakamba sealed a permanent move to Kenilworth Road in July 2023.

In January 2020, Zimbabwean striker Tino Kadewere joined French top-flight side Lyon from Ligue 2 side Le Havre in a reported 15 million euro move, which made him Zimbabwe’s most expensive footballer in history at that time.

Coincidentally, Kadewere also made another move this January, when he joined Nantes on loan from Lyon on January 3, while Munashe Garananga shifted base from FC Sheriff if Moldova to Belgian outfit KV Mechelen.

While January was usually a hive of activity for local-based players who mostly moved to the South African top-flight, there has been a worrying downward trend in the last five years.

In the just-ended window, there was no player from the domestic Premiership who secured a move to South Africa.

Similarly, in July last year, no local player was good enough to earn a move to the Super Diski.

In fact, the last three Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year winners — Joel Ngodzo (2019), Walter Musona (2022) and Qadr Amini (2023) — all failed to attract interest from foreign teams.

From a high of 28 players in the 2018/2019 South African Premiership, Zimbabwe now has seven players in that league.

Douglas Mapfumo (Polokwane City), Devine Lunga (Mamelodi Sundowns), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows) and the SuperSport United quartet of Washington Arubi, Onismor Bhasera, Ronald Pfumbidzai and Terrence Dzvukamanja are the only Zimbabwean footballers on the Super Diski books.

Former Zimbabwe and Mamelodi Sundowns talisman Khama Billiat is also struggling to secure a new club following his move away from Kaizer Chiefs.

Football agent Gibson Mahachi admitted that, although the January window is less active, the country’s football development system is now producing few top-class players.

“We need proper development structures that can produce the desirable product,” said Mahachi.

“If our football association focuses more on development and provides financial support to existing academies, we will produce more players for the world market.”

While saluting the work done by academies, Mahachi also questioned the commitment levels of some of the current crop of players.

“It will be difficult to produce players of the calibre of Peter Ndlovu, Norman Mapeza, Moses Chunga and Benjani Mwaruwari, just to mention a few.

“The mentality of today’s players is misplaced, they lack ambition, they lack consistency, they are not hungry and they lack focus, though some have great potential to make it big.”

He also believes the Covid-19 pandemic and Zimbabwe’s suspension from international football between February 2022 and July 2023 further pegged back growth of the game.

“There was no football in Zimbabwe due to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021. When football returned, we were then banned from playing international football,” added Mahachi.

“In terms of player movements, this was a huge blow because FIFA or CAF competitions provide the best platform.

“Remember, back in the day, when the likes of Justice Majabvi and Edward Sadomba got deals to play outside Zimbabwe, it was on the back of a fine run in the 2008 CAF Champions League.

“When CAPS United exported Nyasha Mushekwi, Method Mwanjali, Lionel Mutizwa, Tafadzwa Rusike and others, it was on the back of the Warriors’ fine run in the 2009 COSAFA tournament hosted in Zimbabwe, where Mushekwi was a top performer.”

The absence of readily available statistics and video footage of local players in an era where technology has become pervasive has also not helped.

Most foreign teams no longer spend huge sums of money sending scouts or calling players for trials before assessing their statistics and viewing their performances first.

Football agents also play a key role in player movements through their links.

Zimbabwe has six FIFA-accredited agents — Denford Mutashu, George Deda, Gilbert Sengwe, Lindela Tshuma, Adonis Sithole and Mahachi.

“It’s a pity that there are still a few local clubs that are comfortable working with a player who is not represented by an agent.

“When a club and the player agent work together, they will produce a fine export product,” Mahachi said.

Ex-Bulawayo Chiefs coach Garthly Chipuka cited lack of exposure and the size of local players as one of the reasons for the decline in the number of Zimbabweans on the transfer market.

“Of course, we should have a deliberate strategy to actually start at a certain level and properly develop players,” he said.

“Junior football is about development and little about winning.

“We should have a viable junior league and qualified coaches, not those who coach just because they have the passion.

“It’s also not about talent alone. Those players who are decent enough are also lacking the necessary exposure.”

According to Chipuka, the size of a player is also key.

“Our anthropometrics (physical measures of a person’s size, form and functional capacities) are against us as they would mean one has to be extremely talented to make it in a foreign league.”

* X: @LangtonGuraz


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