Mathew Rusike remembers the national Under-23s’ 1-0 defeat to South Africa at Rufaro stadium in October 2011 in an All-Africa Games qualifier for two discrete reasons.
Report by Kevin Mapasure
First, he made his international debut in a spell-binding display to decorate a match which Zimbabwe won 1-0 but crashed out after losing the first leg 2-0.
It was to become the launch pad of his promising international career. But it is the injury in that match he will also remember for it derailed a much-sought after breakthrough into Europe, particularly Barclays Premier League.
Rusike charmed the crowd with exquisite skills and speed, but he had to cancel his ticket to Bolton. He has everything to become a top player and after a few appearances for his former club Jomo Cosmos, it was not surprising the then Owen Coyle-managed Premiership side Bolton came calling.
It could also have been Brondby of Denmark or Genk in Belgium, who both showed interest later, but while a European breakthrough has not yet materialised the Kaizer Chiefs attacker is confident his chance will soon arrive.
Prior to the Under-23 performance, little was known about Rusike locally as he had made a few substitute appearances for Norman Mapeza’s Monomotapa, before switching to South Africa’s Mvela league where he played for the University of Pretoria and then Jomo Cosmos in the same league, and the Absa Premiership.
Yet Rusike has since proved, with a few performances in Chiefs’ colours, that he is a jewel worthy all the fuss that characterised his move with Ajax Cape Town luring him while Jomo Sono claimed ownership.
Naturally his biggest disappointment yet is the missed opportunity to go for trials with Bolton.
“It was a big disappointment, you do not get clubs from the Barclays Premiership calling that often and when I learnt that they wanted to have a look at me, I was delighted and promised myself I would make good use of the chance,” said Rusike.
“I was due to fly to England after the match against South Africa, but I suffered an injury which kept me out for three months. It was a big heartbreak, but I am sure their scouts are still monitoring and I am sure I will get another chance at other European teams.”
So confident is Rusike of his ability that he has not bothered employing an agent to represent him in his search for a European move.
“I do not even have an agent but my father handles everything for me. I think it is my football that will find a European breakthrough for me, an agent doesn’t play football.”
Sono played a vital role for former Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari in organising his breakthrough move to Auxerre in France, and he probably would have done the same for Rusike had their relationship not broken down.
“I had a good relationship with Jomo personally, but we clashed business-wise and there was nothing I could do. He is a good guy but I had to do what was best for me.”
Rusike could have played for South Africa’s Bafana Bafana (his mother is South African) or pursued rugby or even music at which his father and brothers, the Rusike Brothers, won acclaim.
But the former St Georges student chose to play for Zimbabwe, his father’s country, while he only played rugby up to Under-16 level before quitting to concentrate on football.
Football is the reason he chose not to enroll at St Johns preferring St Georges where he was to get guidance from one of Zimbabwe’s most qualified coaches, Bheki Nyoni.
In fact Nyoni started coaching Rusike when he was just five-years old at his junior academy, BN Academy.
Two goals in seven matches, with four from substitute appearance, sums it up for Rusike at Chiefs so far.
Warriors coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels is attempting to recreate, in a different style, the celebrated era of the Warriors managed by fellow countryman, the now deceased Reinhard Fabisch. One of his important cogs in that mission is Rusike.