Phillip Zulu-Special Correspondent
AS the curtain slowly closes on Zimbabwean midfielder Marvelous Nakamba’s career at Aston Villa, his lack of game-time under former manager Steven Gerrard and now new coach Unai Emery has accelerated the inevitable.
Nakamba’s departure from the Midlands-based English Premiership football club is becoming a reality in the next transfer window in January 2023.
Game-time has been rare to our Zimbabwean Warrior who is getting media coverage for not playing competitive football in the first team, thus raising the speculation of leaving the club in the next transfer window.
Aston Villa’s defensive midfielder Nakamba is making headlines in our local press for being absent in the starting line-ups and a possible move away from the Midlands-based club, as the writing on the wall becomes more visible and instructive.
Nakamba has been touted as the next big thing from Zimbabwe to grace the English Premiership after Peter Ndlovu, Bruce Grobbelaar and Benjani Mwaruwari, but after watching his performances both for the national team and Aston Villa, nothing will justify his extended stay at the club as the dreaded axe is hovering above his head.
Contrast Jordan Zemura and Nakamba. One is on the rise playing for AFC Bournemouth and the other’s fortunes are in free fall.
I have defended Nakamba in my previous articles, arguing that his role limited him to a less expansive offensive game built on vertical forward play that should encourage his dual roles of attacking and defending.
With all due respect to his defensiveness, Nakamba failed to progress his game to the much expected qualities of offensive play as a dual role for his position in a team that was having more dog-fights of relegation. Some people even questioned former Aston Villa manager Gerrard’s decision to drop him as he went on the market for Boubacar Kamara, a young mobile box-to-box midfielder who had established himself in that role at French Ligue 1 side Marseille.
We all rallied behind Nakamba hoping that he would turn things around, but it got worse with the national team and his failure to add that extra dimension of attacking prowess. His games with the national team have been a huge disappointment as high expectations of “a top Premiership player’’ brought more questions than answers.
As one of the senior players, he never took his duties and roles with great care and professionalism when he was invited to play with mediocre players that were brought in from cartels ruining the game. Nakamba and captain Knowledge Musona looked “content’’ with the shenanigans taking place in the senior national team’s high walls of secrecy and seclusion of player selection process— as a result the majority of our top players like Khama Billiat, Tendai Darikwa, Tino Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi and Teenage Hadebe lost the gloss of playing with quality players who have that top-flight competitiveness of good leagues.
Horses for courses became the opposite of how international football works in terms of player development plans and strategies. Horses for courses cascaded the shambles of our football as players hovering towards retirement got “selected’’ in droves, impairing the end product quality of the likes of Nakamba.
Flooding the national team with below average players that were struggling in the local league and in South Africa’s obscure leagues compromised their “star billing’’ at every turn as they all became tainted with the same odour. Poor positioning of Nakamba in the midfield set-up hastened his decline and lack of development in the offensive attacking roles.
At Villa, he was never going to get that opportunity to work on those creative rehearsals. Modern management of the national team players is premised on this paradigm and its absence from our highly compromised national structure responsible with player selection horrifically strangled the very “bright stars’’ that we labour so much to get into Europe’s top leagues.
Argentina’s national team coach Lionel Scalon recently spoke highly of Lionel Messi’s star attraction and affectionate influence to the team when they lost the first game at this year’s FIFA World Cup against Saudi Arabia, as he recalled how Messi calmly reminded all the players that their qualification hinged on acquiring 6 points — which they did in style.
Our national teams that have qualified for the two last AFCON tournaments stand accused of damaging our “bright stars’’ progression and development. Their silence over the continued selection of mediocrity at every turn affected the stability of the team and a few individual players professionally dissociated with the circus in the national team as they either quit international football or chose to use injuries and pressure from family.
Football is a team game that revolves around fair practices of selection, management systems and strategic planning; and as Nakamba increasingly gets intense scrutiny from fans and the media, his situation should be a perfect example of how poorly constructed national teams could dent one’s blossoming career.
The absence of professionalism in the national teams deters us from attracting fledgling Zimbabweans playing in the English Premier League, as evidenced by Reiss Nelson’s reluctance to even pick up a phone call from ZIFA’s previous attempts to lure him to play in the senior national squad.
By reading between the lines they easily sense that all is not well in the way our national teams are managed and constructed at staff level and the selection process. Our national teams have become an equivalent of popular British comedy, Only Fools and Horses, the only difference is that our football has been strangled to death and there is nothing to joke about!
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