Albert Marufu in LONDON, England
UNITED Kingdom-based youth sensations, Tivonge Rushesha and Jordan Zemura, are excited at being drafted into the Warriors for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers. Swansea City development side’s Rushesha (17), who represented Wales Under-17 twice last year, and Zemura (19) of AFC Bournemouth Under-21, are part of a generation of players raised in the Europe with Zimbabwean roots.
They were included in coach Joey Antipas’ 32-member squad.
The others are Stockport City’s Douglas Nyaupembe, Adam Chicksen of Bolton Wanderers, Cliff Moyo, Charlton Athletic’s Macauley Bonne and Jonah Fabisch, who plays for Hamburger SV in Germany.
They become the latest United Kingdom-based players to retrace their roots following the footsteps of Tendayi Darikwa, Aleck Mudimu, Admiral Muskwe and Moyo.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare, the Mistry Chipere led Zimbabwe Foreign Legion and Team Zimbabwe UK have been fronting the crusade.
The Warriors, who are in Group H of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers that includes Botswana, Algeria and Zambia, get their campaign rolling against Botswana at Barbourfields on November 15 before travelling to Zambia four days later.
Rushesha, who counts Benjani Mwaruwari and Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba among his role models, described the call-up to the Warriors as an honour.
“I feel privileged to be in such a position. I have followed the Africa Cup of Nations on television and have heard a lot about CAPS United from my father who always talks about (the late) Joel Shambo.
‘‘I visit Zimbabwe very often, on average every two years, because that’s where I was born and it’s home.
“I always enjoy spending time with my extended family – loads of brothers and sisters,” said Rushesha who moved to the United Kingdom in 2003.
Rushesha, who can play either in midfield or as a full back, added: “I watched the recent tournament in Egypt and I follow Nakamba, who is an amazing player.
‘‘I am still developing as a player, still learning and still has a long way to go. I am enjoying my football development that I have been afforded by Swansea AFC.”
He, however, expressed doubt if he will be able to renew his Zimbabwean passports on time before Zimbabwe’s next match.
“My Zimbabwean passport expired and the national team manager has been in touch and he is aware that I will not be able to make the squad this time,” he said.
London-born Zemura, whose Zimbabwean passport has also expired and is being renewed, encouraged others to retrace their roots.
“I am humbled and honoured to represent my country. I feel a sense of joy and determination to help my country succeed in everything I do. What excites me is playing with the new generation of Zimbabwean footballers and the youth who are all across Europe but wouldn’t have thought about playing for Zimbabwe.
“The opportunity to spark a nation, put belief and hope in the young Zimbabweans who want to see their country at the World Cup, it excites me,” said Zemura, who last visited Zimbabwe in 2015.
Asked about his knowledge of Zimbabwean football, Zemura said: “I know quite a bit and I know some of the players.
‘‘As a young player you always check on your country and look to see who’s playing and looking for the development of players as well.
“My family is heavily involved in football and have been for sometime and they have been informed before and told me about the football back home,” Zemura said.
Just like Rushesha, he also counts Nakamba and Benjani among his Zimbabwean football heroes.
‘‘For me, personally, it means the world and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity, also it’s a very good moment for me and my family, who follow me every step of the way!
‘‘Bournemouth are a brilliant club and have helped me a lot. They are excited for me and expecting good things from this.”