BREAKING NEW GROUND

Robson Sharuko   in JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
MARSHALL MUNETSI, dubbed by former midfield strongman Tinashe Nengomasha as the face of an emerging Golden Generation of Warriors, is being linked with a move to Major League Soccer in the United States.

The 22-year-old defensive midfielder, who also plays as a central defender for his South African side Orlando Pirates, has transformed himself into one of prized assets in Supa Diski with some commanding performances.

He is also now a regular for the Warriors, having caught the eye of coach Sunday Chidzambwa during a tournament in Zambia, with the gaffer saying he is the biggest find in local football in the past few years.

Reports here and the United States suggest agents representing Munetsi could have sealed a deal for the utility player to move to the United States in August this year.

Questions will inevitably be asked about the wisdom of such a move, given the MLS is not regarded as highly competitive as the top leagues in Europe, where the best footballers ply their trade.

However, a few months ago, English Premiership side Newcastle United broke their transfer record when they signed Paraguay forward Miguel Almiron for US$26 million from MLS champions Atlanta United.

The deal broke the then-record fee of US$19.5 million which the Magpies had splashed on former England striker Michael Owen to lure him from Spanish giants Real Madrid.

The transfer, the biggest ever completed in the MLS, put the top-flight league in the United States into sharp focus, amid signs the game has been developing in that country.

According to the reports, Columbus Crew technical director, Pat Onstad, was here in South Africa at the weekend to seal the deal to take Munetsi to the United States.

Onstad is said to have met with Munetsi’s agents and also watched the Soweto Derby which ended in a 1-1 draw between Pirates and Chiefs on Saturday at the FNB Stadium.

MSport Management, who are said to represent Munetsi, then posted a tweet which suggested a deal had been reached for the Zimbabwean to move to Columbus Crew.

“The lucky one will be playing in the MLS soon,” read the tweet.

The tweet was later deleted but not before it had been re-tweeted by delirious fans of Columbus Crew, a club based in Columbus, Ohio, and were champions in 2008.

The club have three Ghanaians, a Brazilian, a Portuguese and one player from Iraq and another from Costa Rica and another one from Denmark in their cosmopolitan squad.

Munetsi has flourished in this country since arriving here three years ago when he joined lower division side Ubuntu Cape Town.

The Cape side describes him as a special player who was “in the mould of a typical Yaya Toure, big, strong and mobile and a good passer of the ball.”

He made 22 appearances for Ubuntu that season and moved to Baroka where he also played for just a season, making 26 appearances.

Pirates came calling and Munetsi has been one of the key players in the Buccaneers side making more than 20 appearances this season.

The Soweto giants appear desperate to keep him at the club and there were suggestions they even gambled with the idea of leaving him out of the match against Chiefs on Saturday because they didn’t want to expose him to the watching American scouts.

Nengomasha, one of those who blazed a trail by becoming the pioneer Warriors to play at the AFCON finals, in Tunisia 15 years ago, believes Zimbabwe have a gem of a footballer in Munetsi.

Nengomasha, who was the youngest Warrior to play in that historic AFCON match against Egypt, says there is something special about Munetsi and while he might not be a flashy kind of player, given he does most of the dirty work, he has genuine quality.

“He has impressed me a lot, his consistency for a player of his age, his confidence is amazing and he really believes he can play against anyone,” said Nengomasha.

“I think we are seeing the emergence of a genuinely talented Zimbabwean football star, maybe the face of this emerging crop of good players we are seeing in our country.

“When you see someone playing in a defensive role who is comfortable playing the ball, who just doesn’t defend, which he does very well, but who can pick a pass, then you know you have a special player.

“I think we are seeing a number of very good players, in our country, who will make a very competitive Warriors side and Marshall is the gem of that group.

“You can also include Tino Kadewere in that group, an amazing young player who will grow into a star as far as I can see and it’s good for the future of our national team.”

Nengomasha is now one of the brand ambassadors of the Castle Africa 5s, a regional five-aside tournament, which has the blessing of Samuel Eto’o, the most decorated African footballer in history.

He is promoting the tournament here this week.