Tadious Manyepo, Sports Reporter
THE local league is fast becoming a popular hunting ground for the region with Zambia and Malawi joining the queue to lure top talent as Premiership football clubs fail to retain players due to financial and administrative constraints.
While football has become a huge money-spinning venture across the world, it’s not the case here as it is in other countries including Zambia whose star players used to flood the local league just over a dozen years ago.
Five of the players to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in the past decade have immediately been snatched by teams from neighbouring countries with the 2019 winner Joel Ngodzo having already been signed by ambitious Zambian club, Buildcon.
Denver Mukamba and Washington Arubi, who won the 2011 and 2012 crowns, got contracts in South Africa as soon as they received their prizes while the 2015 winner, Dani “Deco” Phiri, as well as Rodwell Chinyengetere, winner in 2017 and 2018, did the same.
But no team in Zimbabwe has been able to attract top players in the Zambian, Tanzanian or Mozambican leagues over the same period.
If anything, local teams have been offering a lifeline to mediocre players who have failed to play regularly for clubs in their respective countries.
Once those players find their groove, they immediately look for better opportunity elsewhere.
Players like Joel Ntouba Epoupa of Cameroon, who played for Dynamos three years ago, had failed to attract interest in his home country and as soon as he showed potential at the Glamour Boys, he opted to play in Botswana.
His agent, Gilbert Sengwe, who is currently working to facilitate a move for Herentals striker Kelvin Bingala to Zambia, doesn’t have any clue on which team(s) Epoupa featured for back in his homeland but only video clips of the striker.
“Yes, he used to play in Cameroon. He is a good player and he showed it when he was playing for Dynamos. Now he is in Zambia, playing well,” said Sengwe.
CAPS United lured striker Abasarim Chidiebere from Nigeria three years ago. It was his frame and not his profile that must have impressed them and interestingly he scored just one goal in three years for them before they decided to let him go last year.
FC Platinum’s Albert Eonde is doing well for the Zvishavane team but if his profile is to grow, it will have to do so while he continues at the champions, otherwise he was an unknown quantity before he made the move there.
Ghananian Steven Owusu arrived at Ngezi Platinum Stars two years ago amid high expectations he would be banging in the goals for the Mhondoro team but he again flopped. No wonder he doesn’t have any traceable footballing history.
While local teams settle for flops from other countries, talented players from here continue to be lured by rich leagues.
Sadly, some of the teams which the players end up playing at play a little role in advancing the their careers.
Buildcon, which Ngodzo as well as the pair of ex-Harare City right-back Takudzwa Chimwemwe and former Ngezi Platinum Stars forward Donald Teguru have joined, has a well-documented history of mistreating players.
The quartet of Partson Jaure, Nqobizitha Masuku, Tatenda Mukuruva and Devon Chafa didn’t have a fruitful time at that club and had their contracts terminated mid-stream.
Unfortunately, the same agent, George Deda, who facilitated the quartet’s move last time, is also currently very active in taking dozens of local players to the same club for the love of the greenback.
So desperate are the players that no one amongst the three —Ngodzo, Chimwemwe and Teguru — even bothered to consult either Jaure or Chafa, who are both in the country, on what the club expects before they decided to put pen to paper.
Of course, the likes of Tafadzwa Rusike, Dennis Dauda, Ocean Mushure and Thabani Kamusoko — who are all playing in the Zambian league — are doing well and they will be hoping to settle at the hard-to-please league minnows, Buildcon.
Although there are a few players who have managed to settle in South Africa where Dynamos star Emmanuel Jalai could end up playing this January, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for others.
Chinyengetere lasted barely two months at Baroka and is back on loan at FC Platinum.
Jaure, Denver Mukamba and Evans Gwekwerere, amongst an array of local stars, have a story or two to tell when it comes to playing top-flight football where expectations are high.
But the players have no option but to do it, since the local league has little to offer, some would argue.