TEN or so years ago, a Zimbabwe national team player from the Tanzanian league would have been unheard of.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
It would have been simply outrageous, some kind of national embarrassment, for a country best known for its wildlife (and perhaps its iconic statesman Julius Nyerere too!) supplying a national team player to our Warriors.
Such misgivings, with deep roots steeped in history, could be felt when caretaker Warriors coach Norman Mapeza called up midfielder Thabani Kamusoko — who is on the books of Tanzanian top-flight outfit Young Africans — for Zimbabwe’s opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia earlier this month.
The murmurs of disapproval would turn into roars of approval as Kamusoko turned on the style with a performance bursting at the seams with quality in the 3-0 demolition of the Lone Star on June 10.
The boo-boys, at the ready to turn on the heat, quickly became vociferous cheerleaders.
The Tanzanians, in actual fact, thought we were absolutely nuts not to include only one in our 2017 Africa Cup of Nations squad.
Turning back to Kamusoko, one is tempted to view the impressive showing against Liberia as an isolated case.
It could well be an isolated case.
But let us not forget that just like the East African country’s booming economy, Tanzanian football has been going through some kind of transition due to a new sense of professionalism and increased funding into the national structure of the game there.
In contrast, while most leagues across Africa have wheeled away in terms of standards due to bigger budgets as well as scientific methods of coaching and training, we keep doing things the same way as we did 20 years ago.
The end result of that state of stagnation is what we see today with our teams in the African Champions League.
While Dynamos could go all the way to the final of the Champions League in 1998 and the semi-final 10 years later in 2008, a lot has changed. Others have moved with the times.
Back then there was very little separating us with the best on the continent.
Caps United’s performance in this year’s Champions League, conceding four goals twice against the Libyans Al Ahli Tripoli, has been nothing short of disastrous.
But they are not alone in this.
Last year, Chicken Inn exited the competition at the first time of asking.
Before Chicken Inn, Dynamos had been reduced to a boozers’ outfit in Africa even as they dominated with unprecedented ruthlessness back home.
For good measure, it is not only the teams up north or west that have shunned mediocrity in their approach to the game.
Look no further than Mamelodi Sundowns, our neighbours across the Limpopo who are the Champions League holders.
It is not hard to see the superiority in awareness, intensity, personal values, belief and attitude when the South Africans play in this competition.
Peter Ndlovu, Zimbabwe’s greatest footballer, is the team manager at Sundowns. As one of the longest-serving African players in England and a fantastic talent in his playing days, Ndlovu commands huge respect in the Downs changing room and on the well-equipped technical bench.
Ndlovu is not a kit-carrying manager (which would be his role in the Zim set-up).
In the words of Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, he is extra-technical brains, an advisor to the coach.
It has paid off.