Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
MARVELOUS NAKAMBA’S fine performances at Aston Villa have forced international scouts to review their impression of Zimbabwean footballers.
An army of scouts, who would normally have little consideration about coming to Zimbabwe, in search of fresh talent, are now shifting their focus on the country.
They are being inspired by hope there could be a number of other good players, in this country, who just need to be identified and given a chance to break into European football.
Nakamba has settled well in the English Premiership where he has been producing some man-of-the-match displays at his new club.
New players have tended to struggle in adjusting to the pace, and intensity, of the Premiership with many taking more than six months to settle.
But, Nakamba has slipped into the Villa midfield as if he has been playing at this level of the game for years.
Organisers of an international football scouting event have chosen Zimbabwe as one of the only six African countries from where they hope to pick, at least, 15 players from each nation.
In the past, before Nakamba’s recent explosion at Villa, these organisers would not have considered including Zimbabwe among the countries for their talent transcontinental talent search.
But, that has now changed amid a rush for the search of the rough diamonds that could be found in domestic football.
The scouts are looking for players between the ages of 13 and 25 and will hold a two-day scouting tournament at Prince Edward, in Harare, and a similar event in Bulawayo.
Since announcing their arrival in the country during a live programme on ZTV’s GamePlan magazine programme on Wednesday night, the scouts have been inundated with requests from those who want to be part of the show.
The selected 15 players would be flown to Europe for placements.
Dubbed “The World’s Biggest Scouting Event”, the mission, whose general co-ordinator is Nigeria’s Moo Muhammed Mustapha, will hold the scouting tournament at Prince Edward School starting tomorrow.
Mustapha is based in Russia but has a vast array of contacts across the global football world.
The event is being held in conjunction with Dynamic African Stars, a football academy which has its headquarters in South Africa, and has a sister branch in Nigeria.
Mustapha arrived in the country together with a Portuguese scout, Miguel Angelo Ferreira Almeida.
They have roped in former Warriors defender, Dickson Choto, who even took his local club, DC Academy, into the ZIFA Northern Region Division One League.
Choto is working in conjunction with former CAPS United defender, Charles Manjera, who has also been running his football academy in Chitungwiza.
The organisers said the first bunch of players likely to be picked on this tour of duty, should they find the promising footballers they want, were likely to be attached to a club in Greece.
Mustapha revealed their decision to settle for Zimbabwe, as one of the countries they would run the inaugural talent search event, was largely inspired by Nakamba’s performance in the English Premiership.
“We have earmarked six countries for this event this year. Zimbabwe is our second destination after we did one such event in Nigeria,’’ said Mustapha.
“We saw it fit to come to Zimbabwe, which we felt was being underrated, when one looks at the talent that is in this country.
“After the displays by Zimbabwean midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, we thought if Nakamba can do that, then how many other players, who are like him, can also be found in Zimbabwe?
“It means there are a lot other players who might be lacking the necessary exposure. This is why we decided to settle for Zimbabwe as one of the beneficiaries of this very first event of its kind.
“Several teams in Spain, Russia, Portugal, Greece and many others countries have expressed interest in taking on board Zimbabwean players. So, the tournament at the weekend, is a huge opportunity for both professional and amateur players to come and showcase their talent.
“As organisers of this event, we would like to thank Zimbabwe Football Association, the Sports and Recreation Commission, as well as the Premier Soccer League, for giving us the leeway to conduct this event here.”
He said it was time European teams started to sniff for Zimbabwean and other Southern African players rather than merely concentrating on North and West African players.
Manjera, who won the league championship with the Green Machine in 2005, said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local players to break into the big leagues of Europe.
“This initiative has come at the right time for local players,’’ he said.
‘‘They should come in their numbers, those who play in academies, different leagues and even school children. As long as they are between the ages of 13 and 25 years, we can consider having a look at them.
“Indeed, Nakamba’s performance is one of the many reasons why this event has been brought here.
‘‘We believe there are a lot of good players like Nakamba in Zimbabwe who can illuminate the scene when given an opportunity to do so.”
The former CAPS United defender said two of the 15 players selected in Nigeria had already finalised contract talks with Russian teams.
Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa are the other countries where the event will be held this year.