By Phil Zulu
The sharp contrast in the careers of Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino, who is soaring Liverpool where he is transforming himself into one of the English Premiership’s best forwards, and Warriors captain Knowledge Musona made interesting, yet very sad reading, if you are Zimbabwean.
While Musona remains trapped at a modest Belgian club KV Oostende, Firmino is now one of the finest forwards at five-time European champions Liverpool.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, the duo shared the same dressing room in Germany. So, how did things go different to such an extent that Musona was even, at one stage, loaned back to Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa and speculation remains rife he could return to Super Diski again?
The shocking differences highlighted by the contrasting careers of the two former teammates is a clear indication of how the football market works at the highest level of the modern game.
I totally agree with what our local football intermediaries have said but it goes further than that, good agents do not make the right contacts but they also guide the right players on the individual development at the earliest opportunity before they reach maturity stages of say 26 years and above.
The majority of our players do have potential when you look at them but, their development pathways from 14-19 years, then 19-22 years and thereafter is where our major problem lies due to various issues of poor expertise on technical coaching, competitive and quality game exposure, non-existent scouting networks and the harsh effects of mediocre football settings that registers a 100 plus ranking on the global stage.
The comparisons that have been made on Musona and Firmino are perfectly sound and a true measure of how the game works at the highest level without any doubt.
Our biggest problem as a nation is to expect far too much from Musona or Khama Billiat when we all know how our dire situation is on the ground, a holistic analysis of how our grassroots football is managed and directed towards the domestic and international markets.
Both Musona and Khama are products of Aces Youth Academy which has been pivotal in trying to scout for local talent and carefully seek to develop many such young players to the next level.
As soon as word spread that Musona and Khama are decent players what happened to them? We all know how they were “taken” over by intermediaries who only sought to make a killing on the ABSA South African Premiership market and I personally feel this was where the rot set in.
I also vividly remember being asked to link Khama with another top agent who tried to bring him for trials with an English Premiership club then, around 2011-12.
The agent was adamant that Khama suited their minimum expectations but sadly, when I got hold of Khama he couldn’t give a definite answer as he referred us to his own representative at that time.
When we tried again contacting the representative, we hit a brickwall as every effort was twisted and denied any audience. We then inquired on a few close contacts who confirmed to us the horrors behind the arrangements of how Khama was “managed”.
In February this year, The Herald reported that Musona was also given a chance to crack into England and he reportedly said he was not one for trials and would only come here if a deal was already in place for him.
Musona turned down a chance to prove himself at an English Premiership club, at a time he was struggling to make an impression in the German Bundesliga, but then accepted a loan move back to Super Diski for a second spell with Chiefs.
The Zimbabwe international forward was offered a golden opportunity to break into the English Premiership by London club Queens Park Rangers in July 2013, at a time he was struggling to impress at Hoffenheim, but turned it down saying he wasn’t the type to go for a 10-day assessment.
Instead, Musona traced his footsteps back into the South African Premiership by rejoining Kaizer Chiefs, on loan, before he was then sold to Belgian top-flight club KV Oostende.
Queens Park Rangers, who were then in the English Premiership and under the guidance of manager Harry Redknapp, wanted to assess Musona for 10 days before finally making a decision whether to sign him or not in July 2013. The deal had been facilitated by Zimbabwean agent Kenny Mapeza.
“On behalf of Queens Park Rangers Football Club, I kindly request the temporary release of Knowledge Musona to join us in a trial assessment at our club for a duration of 10 days,” Redknapp wrote in an official request to Hoffenheim on July 4, 2013.
“The player is expected to arrive in England at the possible earliest date. We thank you for your efforts.”
Mapeza, who was handling that deal, says Musona told him he wasn’t comfortable with an assessment. “Knowledge is the one who said that he wouldn’t come to England for trials when he wasn’t getting game time in Germany, that’s around the time he was loaned back to Chiefs,” said Mapeza.
“It breaks my heart that Khama (Billiat) isn’t playing in Europe while week-in and week-out we watch average players playing in top leagues here. To break into Europe, you need to have an agent with the right contacts.
Players back home don’t believe that we can help them with their careers, most of them are ill-advised. It’s heartbreaking. I have tried to help local lads and I will continue to do so.”
A few months after Musona turned down a chance to break into the English Premiership, Queens Park Rangers turned their attention on another Zimbabwean international, Ovidy Karuru, and invited him for an assessment.
He was then playing in France. But that deal never materialised and Karuru is now playing for South African outfit Amazulu.
In 2014 Denis Dauda went for a trial with a club from Azerbaijan and failed to make the grade and after reading through the remarks made by the technical department headed by Tony Adams, who is a former top international player, it was so obvious that everything that was raised ticked well in our feudal domestic league and its grand failure as a by-product of the national team which is ranked lowest and a symbol of incompetence.
We still have an education system that is anti-sports, a system that only awards scholarships to the most outstanding academic student at A Level and further beyond, nothing for a budding athlete who could be a talented young person from tender ages of 10-plus.
We have an academic aristocracy that continually lectures to us that sport is not part of the exchequer’s remit in the disbursement of the national purse and sharing of the cake.
We have a curriculum that is outdated and decadent, it only glorifies an A plus student and gores the non-academic students with its rhino horn like “bull fighting instincts”, we have been failed by Parliament and local authorities. The Herald