The recycling of players, lack of development and waning fortunes of Zimbabwean football

When Denver Mukamba was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in December 2012, Manchester City star Phil Foden was just 12 years of age.

When Mukamba won the prestigious gong  after a brilliant season with title-winning Dynamos, Foden was just a ball boy dreaming to follow the footsteps of his City idols.

Back then, the sky blue City shirt was donned by the likes of Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Joleon Lescott, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, to mention but a few.

10 years on, none of the aforementioned players is still at City or on the ranks of any English Premier League team but Foden has become one of the biggest talents in world football and the English media even went berserk when England manager Gareth Southgate was not starting the 22-year old in the early stages of the recently concluded FIFA World Cup.

While Foden went from being a City Academy rookie to a regular in the Cityzens’ current senior team managed by Pep Guardiola, Mukamba, who was at the peak of his powers in 2012, is still regarded by some as a ‘big star’ in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.

In fact, some even questioned why Ngezi Platinum Stars coach coach Takesure Chiragwi was not playing Mukamba regularly towards the end of last season.

When the news of Partson Jaure’s Dynamos exit broke three days ago, some DeMbare fans were livid and even accused the newly- appointed Hebert Maruwa-led technical team of incompetence of the highest order.

Jaure, who just like Mukamba was at his peak around 2012, went to South Africa —where he played for University of Pretoria for two years before his career took a huge nosedive when AmaTuks were relegated from the country’s top-flight in 2016.

Jaure returned to Zimbabwe played for Ngezi until 2019 when he joined Manica Diamonds, before tracing his roots to DeMbare.

The former Warriors defender, clearly past his prime and a pale shadow of his former self, is the same player some Dynamos fans feel deserved a new contract at the Glamour Boys.

Lack of development in Zimbabwean football and the fear of creating new heroes, is partly to blame for the declining standards of the game.

Talent scout and performance analyst Kudzai Chitima acknowledges the problem and admits it has hindered progress.

“Recycling of players is just one of the symptoms of lack of or inefficient junior development,” Chitima told Soccer24.

“It is because maybe we do not have a larger pool of talent to select from or the coaches want instant results and cannot risk trying out ‘unknown’ players.

“It continues to hinder development because it blocks the development pathways of younger deserving players and frustrates them, leading to some quiting and some resorting to age cheating as a form compensation for time wasted.

“By doing so, we create weak national teams that cannot compete for honours and have very few exports,” added Chitima.

Chitima believes Zimbabwean clubs do not have the patience to wait for a player to fully develop, hence the recycling of players.

“Talent development is a process —from talent detection, to talent identification, to talent development then talent selection. For that to happen efficiently, each stage should be done properly,” explained Chitima.

“The problem we have in Zimbabwe is we want to short circuit the process and it doesn’t work that way.

“Do you know that the England U17 side of 2017 had the likes of Foden, Rhian Brewster, Conor Gallagher,  Emile Smith Rowe, Jadon Sancho, to name but just a few.  Most of them have graduated into the first team. Who has graduated from U17 to U20 to the senior national team in our country, let alone from U20 to our national team?

“The biggest problem we have In Zimbabwe is blocking the talent development pathway,” added Chitima.

Knowledge Musona, one of the best players Zimbabwe has ever produced, who captained the Warriors at two editions of the AFCON finals,  never played in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.

He was scouted by Kaizer Chiefs while at Aces Youth Academy and joined the Soweto giants straight from the Water Falls-based establishment.

South African agent Mike Ngobeni reckons Zimbabwe is now lagging behind in terms of ddevelopment talent and that is costing the country.

“Zimbabwe is lagging behind when it comes to the youngsters, development is behind by far,” admitted Ngobeni, adding that the recycling of players is a huge problem in Zimbabwe.

“We are still seeing the clubs (in Zimbabwe) with old players in the starting eleven. I’m not saying old players must not play. I’m saying football, like any other industry, is changing.

“Clubs these days are focussing on the youngsters because the money is on the youngsters,” added Ngobeni.

While Zimbabwean football continues to recycle players at the expense of development, the game is paying the price.

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