Zimbabwe’s greatest ever football export: The debate

The Zimbabwean flag has, on several occasions throughout the course of history, been raised high as a far as football is concerned.

Zimbabwe might not be held in high regard in international football like the likes of Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, just to mention a few but it has had its few shares of moments to server.

Many players have excelled on the international scale, making it very difficult to attribute with certainty who the greatest ever export is.

Peter Ndlovu  

In August 1992, a young and dazzling Peter Ndlovu, who had taken local football by storm in Bulawayo, made the historic move from Highlanders to English Premier League side Coventry City.

In fact, the Flying Elephant, as Ndlovu is referred to in this football loving country, is the first black African player to grace the English top-flight.

His hattrick against Liverpool at Anfield below, is regarded as of the most iconic moments in Zimbabwean football history.

Watch: Peter Ndlovu’s hattrick for Coventry City against Liverpool at Anfield 

Ndlovu later turned out for Sheffield United and Birmingham City in the English Football League.

He is regarded by some as the greatest player of all time in Zimbabwe, making the question of whether or not he qualifies for being nominated among the country’s greatest exports, somewhat rhetoric.

Norman Mapeza

One of the most celebrated football talents in Zimbabwe

The former Warriors skipper is also another fan favorite. He is one of the few Zimbabwean players to have graced the UEFA Champions League and he once opened up on the feeling of playing in the competition, having done so with Turkish giants Galatasaray in the 1994-95 season.

“When I first went to Poland, I was afraid of snow. It was the first time I saw snow and I could not get out of the house. It was a good time for my career, it was the first time in Europe. The following year I received a proposal from Galatasaray and I ran to the running. I played in the Champions League against Barcelona and Manchester United,” he told Polish newspaper Futbol Arsiv.

“It was the peak of my career … Everyone wanted to play in these games. And let me remind you, then entering the Champions League was much more difficult than it is now, because only 16 teams could play at that time, not 32. This was an incredible feeling,” added Mapeza.

Benjani Mwaruwari

Benjani ‘The Undertaker’ Mwaruwari is a name which needs no introduction in local football, as well as the English Premier League and French Ligue 1.

He is the only Zimbabwean to ever score in the UEFA Champions League, when he netted the solitary goal in AJ Auxerre’s 1-0 win over Borrusia Dortmund on the 25th of September 2002.

Mwaruwari then moved to Portsmouth in 2006 before making dream move to Manchester City.

His winner in the Manchester derby against United at Old Trafford in February 2008 propelled the Citizens to their first victory at the home of their rivals since 1974.

Impressive right?

Since Mwaruwari left England, nine long years passed till another Zimbabwe international rubbed shoulders with the world’s finest in the Premier League.

Marvelous Nakamba then broke that jinx when he made the switch to Birmingham side Aston Villa from Belgian giants Blub Brugge in August 2019.

The Hwange-bred midfielder started like a house on fire, cementing his place in Dean Smith’s side producing impressive displays in the claret and blue jersey until he somehow fizzled out and lost his place.

Its somewhat debatable if he can be listed among the nominees for the greatest export, though what’s not up for debate is the fact that he is also one of the few Zimbabwean players to play in the Champions League.

Nakamba’s spotlight was from a Zimbabwean perspective was replaced by that of Tinotenda Kadewere.

The lanky former Prince Edward pupil had an unforgettable 2019/20 season at Le Havre before moving to Olympique Lyon.

At Les Gones, he has been impressive, scoring nine league goals in the current campaign and making headline after headline in France.

The club’s official English Twitter account is a clear testimony of how adored he is and their gesture in paying tribute to his late brother Prince is something which will be remembered in a very long time.

Even Real Madrid star Karim Benzema acknowledges that Kadewere has the potential to be a club great.

Is he the greatest export though?

Veteran broadcaster Charles Mabika started a debate on twitter in that regard.


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