Nakamba: A phenomenal player setting new football benchmarks

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LAWRENCE TICHAONA MANGENJE

HE was named Marvelous, maybe because his parents foresaw something wonderful coming out of him or simply because of the delight associated with being blessed with the first child.

Prior to his move to Aston Villa, some fans of the Birmingham-based outfit were sceptical of the club’s decision to spend 11 million pounds on a player who was “virtually unknown”.

Nakamba moved to Villa in August, becoming the first Zimbabwean international since former Warriors skipper Benjani “Undertaker” Mwaruwari to grace arguably the best league in world football, the English Premier League, when he was named in the starting 11 by coach Dean Smith against West Ham.

While the land is blessed with an array of midfield players who have donned the gold and green Warriors strip past and present, Nakamba has, undeniably, brought back that missing glamour to Zimbabwean football.

It had been over eight years since Zimbabweans went into the weekend anticipating to see one of their own rubbing shoulders with some of Europe’s finest.
The 25-year-old has had, not only local fans, but even Aston Villa fans, drooling over his performances and what lies ahead potentially.

His flawless performance in Villa’s 5-1 drubbing of Norwich City left renowned British journalist Ashley Preece singing nothing but praise.

“The Zimbabwean has got a trick in his locker, too, which was proved when he spun and Cruyff turned to stifle Norwich attack. A cool cookie, is Nakamba,’’ wrote Preece in the Birmingham Mail.

Preece also has confidence that the Zimbabwean midfielder came to the English top division at the right age and can be a great player in it.

“He is coming into his own now and looks a gem at 11 million pounds. You get the feeling that there is so much more to come from Nakamba who, at 25, is approaching his prime years. Could be a Premier League great based on current form although It is very much early days. He took his time to get into Smith’s side after nursing an injury from Afcon. The gaffer though, chucked him against West Ham at Villa Park and he hasn’t looked back. Currently, keeping Douglas Luiz out of the team and that’s no mean feat,’’ wrote the Aston Villa correspondent.

Nakamba’s performance at Carrow Road earned him yet another man-of-the-match submission on the club’s Twitter page, a flagship survey which he could have won even if Zimbabwean users had not bombarded the poll in support of the former Club Brugge man.

The glory of seeing Nakamba making history in England is not confined to fans alone, even fellow professional footballers.

India-based former Dynamos and How Mine defender Victor Kamhuka believes Nakamba is setting a benchmark for Zimbabwean football.

“What Marve (Nakamba) has achieved is a good thing for us Zimbabwean footballers. It shows there is talent in the country and we get respect because of what he is doing and I’m very happy for him because he is putting our football on the map,’’ Kamhuka said.

Kamhuka also recalls how Nakamba was modest when they used to play together for the Young Warriors.“He is a good guy. We played together in the Cosafa U-20 in South Africa in 2009, he was just 15 years of age, extraordinary but humble,’’ he said.

Like Kamhuka, former Highlanders and CAPS United speedy winger Gabriel Nyoni, who now turns out for Maritzburg United in the Absa Premiership, also believes Nakamba’s exploits in the Premier League have a positive effect on how Zimbabwean football is perceived.

“Nakamba is now part of the elite group of players to have represented Zimbabwe on the global market,” Nyoni said.

“His playing in the Premier League has a multiplier effect on Zimbabwean football. It creates awareness for our football by attracting agents to scout for more local talent,” he added.

To Nyoni’s foretelling, a group of scouts, due to Nakamba’s performance in England, will reportedly be holding a scouting tournament at Prince Edward School this week.

The group, headed by Russia-based Nigerian Moo Muhammed Mustapha, will be looking to scout and recruit players between the age of 13 and 25 and fly them to Europe for placement.

Nakamba’s explosion in England has also led to suggestions that a statue be erected in his home town of Hwange in his honour, a proposal which legendary former Zimbabwe skipper Peter Ndlovu, who is regarded by many as the greatest Warrior of all time, endorsed.

“The Flying Elephant”, as Ndlovu was affectionately known by football fans, was the first African to grace the English Premier League in the early 1990s, but despite that massive historical milestone, says what Nakamba has achieved is massive for Zimbabwean football hence he (Nakamba) deserves a statue.

“Marvelous knows that we are recognising his hard work with this idea (of erecting a statue) and hopefully it will be a confidence booster for him,” Ndlovu told United Kingdom sports website The Athletic.

Ndlovu continued: “Moving to Aston Villa is an unbelievable achievement for him and we must show support as a nation.”

The former Coventry City striker also ratifies the fact that Nakamba’s exploits are a yardstick for Zimbabwean football.

He is a man with the opportunity to of a lifetime to represent our nation now, to make a difference and define our future,” said Ndlovu.
“He must not let this opportunity pass and the whole Zimbabwe is watching and hoping he will succeed.”

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