THE story of the first Zimbabwean player to play in the English Premier League (EPL) in quite a while may not end according to script if Aston Villa get relegated after the final round of fixtures this weekend.
From a Zimbabwean perspective, for Marvelous Nakamba’s sake, here is hoping that Villa do not go down and that the Warriors midfielder gets a second bite of the cherry after what has been a pretty average debut season in the EPL for the man from Hwange.
Zimbabwean football does, of course, have keen interest in how Nakamba performs in arguably the best domestic football competition in the world.
The previous EPL players from this country before him — Bruce Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari — enjoyed varying levels of success in the United Kingdom and that probably helped to shape some kind of identity for Zimbabwean football in the eyes of the world, and brought a certain measure of respect to our national sporting landscape.
Villa took a big step towards safety with a thoroughly welcome win over Arsenal on Tuesday, but whether or not that is good enough to keep them up, we await.
Relegation hurts, and Villa know all about it. In 2016, the Birmingham club was sent packing to the second-tier of English football for the first time since the 1986-77 season.
Make no mistake, Dean Smith’s men will come out with guns blazing on Sunday against West Ham, to avoid the dreaded chop.
What if they fail the test on the last hurdle and drop? What will be the future of Nakamba in the upper echelons of the game in England and how much of a setback will that development be to the reputation of Zimbabwean players or Zimbabwean football?
Of course, it will be a low point after the hype that accompanied Nakamba’s move to Villa mid-last year from Belgium’s Club Brugge.
But football is a team sport. In all honesty, Villa’s fortunes or lack thereof this season, including whatever happens on Sunday, cannot be down to one individual.
As for Zimbabwe, we should stand proud once again to have contributed a player in the best league in the world and long may it live.
I do not doubt that the supply chain will continue to expand beyond Nakamba, considering the broad base of talent we possess in this country.
Come to think of it, if you had asked any Zimbabwean two seasons ago to predict the player they thought would sign for any EPL club, few would have even listed Nakamba in their top two ahead of somebody like the poster-boy Khama Billiat, or the ever-reliable Knowledge Musona even with his best days behind him.
Talk about being spoilt for choice.