Costa Nhamoinesu Special Correspondent
THE first moment I heard that Knowledge Musona had signed for Anderlecht, I immediately texted him to say I was happy about what he had done. Football is not only about kicking the ball on the pitch, football has become big and playing for these big European clubs like Anderlecht or Club Brugge opens up your mind because you are constantly under pressure and you know you have to deliver all the time.
It helps you keep your body in shape, it helps you know your interactions, it helps you know your place because you know that if you don’t deliver you will never live a peaceful life.
You can’t go anywhere out because everywhere you go the people will be looking at you and the pressure is constant and if you are used to playing under constant pressure then you are able to perform well in big games and you become a better player since you know what is expected from you.
And, if you are able to perform under pressure all the time, you are able to calm your nerves, especially in pressure situations, and you can deliver easily.
People ask why we talk about Messi and Cristiano as the best, well, there are a lot of people who are very good in football but what makes the difference between these two and the rest is their ability to stay up there, performing at a very high level, for a long time.
How do they manage to stay at the top for such a long time, well, it’s because they can perform under pressure, they can showcase their skills in pressure situations and that makes them better than the other players who crumble under pressure.
There are a lot of skilful players who, under pressure,e are unable to perform and, so, to see more of our boys now set to play in the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, it’s a huge advantage for us as a country and as a national team because if they do well it creates a focus on us as a nation that can provide some good football players.
That will then open the way for a number of our youngsters, who are rising up the ladder, to be scouted and taken to European leagues where they can be developed to play for some of these big European clubs one day and that is what we need as a country.
It also gives us the experience we need as Warriors because by playing at a high level, a different level, a tough level and against very good opponents, it forces our boys to work harder to improve their game because that is the only way you can stand the heat at such high levels.
There is no hiding place and when you play against the very best, you also strive to try and be like them, and I can tell you that the more players that we are going to have, or we are having in these top European competitions, the better for our football and you will see a big change.
These competitions will bring out the best in them because the environment is tough and, for our country, it means that we can only get better as a football nation.
When I first played in these competitions I learnt that you have to be tactically and mentally aware of what is happening around you and that makes a difference in this game.
Football can be played by anyone, anyone can kick the ball, can pass, can head and they can cross but what makes the difference is the tactical and technical aspects of the game, the mental aspects which are refined at such big clubs.
You get to know what to do with the ball, what to do without the ball, what to do when playing against a team which has high pressing, when you playing a team with players who are good in the wings and when you are playing against a tall and big striker.
When you are playing a team that uses 3-5-2, all these elements brought together, help make you a better player.
Last time we reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League and we played against some very big teams like Napoli and Schalke, these teams are tactically organised and that’s where the difference in football comes and where you are refined as a player.
Football is round, it’s the same, every player has two legs, it’s the same, but the tactical awareness, the mental aspects are different and that makes the difference because when you are playing Napoli, as we did, we have to mark someone like Higuain and you can’t afford to give him a second, you can’t afford to lose concentration because the moment you do that it’s the second you are punished.
“You are taught discipline and commitment and you have to be aware, every time, every minute, every second and the concentration levels have to be high throughout the 90 minutes and even in extra-time and you have to be in good physical condition and all these things help you improve as a footballer.
“That is why I believe that the increasing number of our players in such top European competitions, like Tino (Kadewere), Knowledge and Nakamba (Marvelous), will have big benefits for our country and our national team.
“I’m glad that the new Warriors coach has recalled me to the national team and it’s a privilege to be asked to represent my country again and when I got the call I was very happy because there is no better honour than representing your country.
“We have a lot of talented players coming through the ranks, youngsters and they are very good players and for the coach to still believe that I can have a role in the team is a privilege to me.
“It doesn’t matter what competition we play in, which opponents we play, it doesn’t matter even if it’s a friendly or preparatory game because when we play for the Warriors, we have to fight for the name of our country and we have to try and win every game.
“It’s been good to come back home and join the guys and know that the new coach has me in his plans that I can serve my country again.”