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As African stars prepare to troop back home for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, Marvelous Nakamba will be the only player from the English Premiership set to travel to Southern Africa.
The 26-year-old is expected to play a key role when Zimbabwe go head-to-head with Algeria in Algiers next Tuesday.
The two teams will then fly to Harare, for the reverse fixture at the National Sports Stadium, just four days later. Nakamba is the only player from the Southern African region who is still involved with English Premiership football.
He is on the books of Birmingham side Aston Villa.
There are just under 40 players, from CAF’s 54-member associations, who ply their trade in England’s top-tier league.
The majority come from North and West African nations with Nigeria leading the way with six players.
Dyson Dzapasi, a UK-based Zimbabwean professional football scout, said only the best players end up having a chance to play in the English Premiership.
The EPL is considered the most competitive top-flight football league in the world.
It is also the football league with the biggest global following.
“It’s tough now to move players straight from Africa to top European teams because of the abundance of African talent in the UK, France, Portugal and Belgium,” said Dzapasi.
“There are plenty players of African origins and no Visa restrictions. Brazil is also playing its part.” Zimbabwe’s neighbours, South Africa, have had a number of players gracing the EPL, in the past but, currently, they have none.
Their star player, Percy Tau, cannot even get the work permit to enable him to play for Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Premiership side have been forced to loan him out, to a number of Belgian sides, since signing him. South Africa used to have the likes of Shaun Bartlett, Quinton Fortune, Benni McCarthy, Aaron Mkoena, Lucas Radebe, Eric Tinkler and Steven Pienaar.
Zambia also had three players — Neil Gregory, Collins Mbesuma and Emmanuel Mayuka — in the past. Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday said although Nakamba may not have played a major role, in the current season, which Villa started on a promising note, his involvement with the Birmingham side is important.
“It’s a big motivation that we have one of our own playing in such a competitive league,” he said.
“There have been very few players from this part of the continent who graced that league.
“In fact, he is the only one currently playing and it shows the competitive nature of the league.
“You have to be extremely talented and disciplined to make it.”
Player agent, George Deda, said it has always been difficult, from the early days, for players of African origin to march into the EPL.
“The English Premiership is one of the most difficult places to make a breakthrough for players of African origin,” he said.
“But, from my own experiences and interactions, it’s not only a matter of the league being highly competitive.
“Getting a visa to go to England is not easy. It’s the British policy that does not allow free movement of people into England.
“Their industry is closed to foreigners and you have to move mountains to make it.
“Agents would prefer alternative countries like France, Spain, Portugal or Turkey where the process is shorter.
“So, in most cases, the player has to go to England via other European leagues. Even during the days of Peter, they would insist on certain number of national team caps.”
1:Nigeria — 6 players Ola Aina (Fulham), Semi Ajayi (West Brom), Odion Ighalo (Manchester United), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Alex Iwobi (Everton), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City),
2:Cote d’lvoire — 4 players Serge Aurier (Tottenham), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace),
3:Ghana — 4 Players Daniel Amartey (Leicester), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace),Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace)
4: Egypt — 4 players (Ahmed Elmohamady, Sunderland), (Mohamed Elneny, Arsenal), (Mohamed Salah, Liverpool), (Trezeguet, Aston Villa)
5: Senegal — 3 players Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea),
6: Algeria –3 players (Said Benrahma West Ham), Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Islam Slimani (Leicester)
7: Cameroon –2 players (Joel Matip, Liverpool), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Fulham)
8: Morocco –2 players Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)
9: Gabon — 2 players (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal), Mario Lamina (Fulham)
10: Mali — 2 players Yves Bissouma (Brighton & Hove), Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)
11: DRC — 2 players (Neeskens Kebano, Fulham), Arthur Masuaku, West Ham)
12: Guinea — 1 Player Naby Keita (Liverpool)
13: Burkina Faso — 1 Player (Betrand Traore, Villa)2
14: Zimbabwe — 1 Player Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa)