Sport in Zimbabwe is given great importance and emphasis in Zimbabwean lives. It has a prominent standing as a long tradition and has produced many world-recognized sports names and personalities. Football is the most popular sport in the country and over the years many of the nation’s finest footballers have made their way to European teams such as AJ Auxerre and Reims in France; Liverpool, Coventry City, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Southampton and Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
Although Zimbabwe international football players are mostly based in South African, let’s look at the most prominent players who have made a name for themselves over the past few years in Europe.
Marvelous Nakamba – midfielder for Aston Villa
Although Nakamba’s team isn’t doing very well in the Premier League at the moment and are placed 16th in the table, coming up is never easy and they were always going to struggle as they arrived in the Premier League without an identity. However, Nakamba is performing as well as he can and is as pure a defensive midfielder as you’ll find in the Premier League. Aston Villa suffer tremendously in the defense department and if it weren’t for Nakamba it would probably have no shot of working at all.
His first European adventure started at the French side Nancy in December 2012. As an 18-year-old youngster, he was moved to Nancy’s reserve team which competed in the fourth tier of French League pyramid. In the summer transfer window in 2017, Nakamba joined Belgian giants Club Brugge for a fee of around £4 million. During summer 2019, he signed for Premier League side Aston Villa, becoming the fourth Zimbabwean player to play in the English Football League.
Tendayi Darikwa – right back for Nottingham Forest
Recently out of action due to a serious knee injury, Darikwa is expected to be sidelined for the season having suffered a ruptured ACL having picked up the problem on the eve of the new Championship season. He is a Zimbabwean player with probably the most significant experience from the English Football Leagues. A Nottingham-born defender, Darikwa started his professional career in Chesterfield back in 2010, where he spent five seasons, booking more than 100 appearances for the club.
In July 2015, Darikwa moved to the Championship side Burnley, and during two seasons spent in this club, he made 21 appearances and scored once. Currently, he is playing for another Championship side, Nottingham Forrest, as he signed a four-year contract in the summer of 2017. As for his current state, Darikwa is focusing on his rehab and getting back to good health and revealed he is determined to get back to the field before the end of the season: “It’s a long-term injury, so it’s slow progress. But I’m happy that I am making progress”.
Marshall Munetsi – midfielder for French club Reims
Munetsi’s moves have been reported even by infamous BBC.com. The Zimbabwean international is currently a member of the French side Reims who plays in Ligue 1. It’s safe to say that Munetsi’s football career is going excellent at the moment and Reims coach David Guion coach has tipped Zimbabwe international Marshall Munetsi to “become a very great player’ after his impressive start to life in the French Ligue 1 where his side are currently third on the log and on course to feature in European club football next season.
Munetsi joined Reims in June after three seasons in South Africa with Orlando Pirates, which included a loan stint with Baroka FC, where he displayed incredible versatility with solid displays in midfield and defence. Initially, Munetsi had a slow start to his career at Reims, however, Munetsi quickly proved his place and produced a spellbinding and well-polished performance in his first start for the French League 1 side. He put global superstar Neymar in the shade in his team’s clash against Paris Saint Germaine last month.
If you follow Zimbabwe football you will quickly notice that this is not the full list. Next time we will cover other footballers who are shaking European football leagues. They include Tino Kadewere who recently signed for French giants Lyon from Le Havre to become Zimbabwe’s most expensive player ever. His four and half deal running up to July 2024 is worth 15 million euros. There is also Charlton Athletic top scorer Macauley Bonne who recently received a Zimbabwean passport to enable him to represent the country at international level. The Warriors captain, Knowledge Musona is still in form at club and country. Defender Teenage Hadebe(pictured above) who plays for Süper Lig club Yeni Malatyaspor is among the most reliable and consistent Zimbabwean footballers playing overseas.