Zimbabwe, here we come
ALTHOUGH he was part of an Arsenal side that became the first to exit the FA Cup in the third round since January 1996, Reiss Nelson’s 90-minute show for the Gunners against Nottingham Forest last Sunday was a reminder of the growing number of foreign born Zimbabwean players scattered across Europe.
The 18-year-old right winger, who was born to a Zimbabwean father and an English mother, received some rave reviews from British media after Arsenal’s 2-4 defeat to Nottingham Forest.
The British media has touted Nelson as one of the brightest prospects in England and Arsene Wenger proved his belief in the Zimbabwean by including Nelson in his 2017-2018 first team squad.
Wenger spoke highly of Nelson after Arsenal’s 0-1 defeat to Cologne in a Europa League match played in November last year.
“Reiss Nelson came on and looked really tricky, dangerous going forward every time,” Wenger told the Evening Standard.
Nelson is still eligible to turn out for Zimbabwe having only featured for England’s Under 17 squad at the 2016 UEFA European Championships.
Nelson’s rise comes at a time Zimbabwe national team coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa has instructed Warriors manager Wellington Mupandare to compile a database of all foreign born Zimbabwean players plying their trade abroad.
Chidzambwa has been tasked to take Zimbabwe to the 2019 AFCON finals and the legendary gaffer wants to harness all the resources available, including those of Zimbabwean descent who are plying their trade in various professional leagues across the globe.
In November last year, the United Kingdom based quartet of Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City), Macauley Bonne (Leyton Orient) and Kundai Benyu, who was recently loaned to English League One side Oldham Athletic from Celtic, made their Warriors debut in an international friendly against Lesotho.
And Chidzambwa wants more players from the diaspora to feature for the Warriors as he bids to take Zimbabwe to the AFCON finals for the second time around, having made history by becoming the first coach to qualify for the biennial tournament in 2004.
“Right now the Warriors team manager (Wellington Mupandare) is compiling a database of all foreign born Zimbabwean players.
“He is tracking all the players across Europe, we want more players and everyone who is willing to play for Zimbabwe should be given a chance,” Chidzambwa told The Sunday Mail yesterday.
“When he (Mupandare) is done, we want to make sure that all the talent scattered across the globe is harnessed,” added Chidzambwa.
The Sunday Mail spoke to some of the players from their bases in Europe,
Central defenders Cliff Nyoni (24) and Alec Mudimu (22) who turn out for Welsh Premier League side Cefn Druids and England National League club Halifax are some of the players who have expressed their desire to don the Warriors jersey.
There is also Kelvin Lunga (23), son to former Warriors bulldozing forward Max Makanza Lunga, who is based in Germany where he plays for Regionalliga side SV Rödinghausen.
Adam Thomas Chickensen (26), who plays left back for English League One side Bradford City is also of Zimbabwean origin while pacey forward Tinashe Chakwana is on the verge of breaking into Burnley’s first team.
Mudimu’s Welsh team, Cefn Druids, is in the running for a Europa League place and the powerful defender is excited at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with European stars.
“I don’t think it gets better than to know that the top six in our league will go to Europa and our team has a great chance.
“I think it will also enhance my profile, being a player who one day would love to play for my country Zimbabwe,” said Mudimu, whose club is currently sixth in the Welsh Premier League.
The lanky Lunga is inspired by his father, who turned out for the late Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream Team in the early 1990s.
“Why not, I would love to play for my country. Dad inspired me because he also played for the Warriors,” Lunga told this publication.
The Regionalliga is a haven of virgin talent and a league that nurtured stars like Bayern Munich star striker Thomas Muller who kick started his career with Bayern Munich II in 2008.
The Warriors technical team will, however, need to move mountains in persuading highly rated Ipswich midfielder Tristan Nydam, who recently expressed his wish to play for the England senior team.
The 18-year-old midfielder, who has attracted interest from Arsenal, was born in Zimbabwe and moved to England when he was 10.
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