By Robson Sharuko
KAIZER CHIEFS have created the biggest foreign base for Zimbabwean professional footballers and the club’s latest recruit, Brian Abbas Amidu, feels it’s a privilege to play for one of the premier sporting brands in Africa.
The Amakhosi – who turned 42 on January 7 – have blazed a trail by becoming the first foreign football club to have six Zimbabwean players on their payroll at the same time.
No other foreign club has demonstrated as much confidence, of investing its trust in the football talent that emerges from this country, as Kaizer Chiefs.
In the past week, the Amakhosi have not only taken the numbers of Zimbabwean players on their books to half-a-dozen, with the acquisition of Amidu, but have given new three-year extensions to the contracts of Thomas Sweswe and Zhaimu Jambo.
Although South African teams can only have a maximum of five foreigners on their books at any given time, the Zimbabwean contingent at Chiefs stands at six because Tinashe Nengomasha has a residency permit that sheds off his foreign status when he is playing for the Amakhosi.
With all six Zimbabweans eligible to be fielded in a game, it means Chiefs can now have a starting XI with three Zimbabwean defenders in their back four, two Zimbabwean linkmen in their four-man midfield and one Zimbabwean striker among their two forwards.
With Jambo and Sweswe all set to gain their residency permits, during the course of their extended contracts, there is a possibility, should Chiefs continue to pursue their current transfer policy, the number of Zimbabweans could swell to eight players.
Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo, voted one of the 12 greatest Kaizer Chiefs’ players of all-time, set the tone for Zimbabwean players at the Amakhosi with a successful spell in the ‘70s while Rabson Muchichwa illuminated the scene at the turn of the millennium.
Knowledge Musona raised the bar, for the Zimbabweans at Chiefs, and by the time he left for the Bundesliga, he had turned himself into a cult-hero and he gave the Amakhosi its biggest pay cheque, in terms of transfers, in the deal that took him to Germany.
Amakhosi chairman, Kaizer Motaung, whose love affair with Zimbabwean players has enabled him to build the biggest foreign base for our footballers, said he was happy that Sweswe and Jambo had extended their stay.
“I am happy to announce that we have renewed the contracts of five players – captain and goalkeeper Ithumeleng Khune, Thomas Sweswe, Jimmy Jambo, Abia Nale and Josta Dladla,” Motaung said in his chairman’s address carried on the official club website.
“We have also secured the services of Brian Abbas Amidu from Black Mambas Football Club in Zimbabwe.
“He joins us with a national experience of playing for his country’s Under-23 team. We look forward to an interesting relationship and hope the players continue with their dedication and hard work.”
Amidu, who signed a three-and-half-year contract, said playing for Chiefs was a milestone development in his career.
“I am delighted to have signed with Kaizer Chiefs. I have been training with the team since late last year and have had opportunity to attend some of the games,” Amidu told the club’s official website.
“It (Chiefs) is without a doubt one of the biggest clubs on the continent and I am delighted to be part of such a respected sporting brand.
“I feel I can grow here as a player. I have been enjoying training with my new teammates and they have made me feel at home here in Naturena.
“Once more I would like to express my gratitude to the technical team and the management for the confidence they have shown in my abilities as a player.”
Amidu will be hoping to make an immediate impact at Chiefs and he can look at the way the career of his Young Warriors teammate, defender Lincoln Zvasiya, has exploded at the Amakhosi, for inspiration.
Both Amidu and Zvasiya represent the future of the Warriors.
And while Zvasiya is slowly establishing himself as a regular centreback in the senior national team, and could have a big role to play in the 2003 Nations Cup qualifiers, Amidu is still to get his big break.
Zvasiya started in the final two matches that Chiefs played in the Absa Premiership before the break, impressing with a solid performance in an all-Zimbabwean central defensive duo that featured Sweswe, in the win over Mamelodi Sundowns.
Sweswe scored the priceless goal.
But Zvasiya didn’t have to wait long to find the target as he scored in the win against Free State Stars just before Super Diski closed shop for the mid-season break.
The rising Zimbabwean defender is eager to continue making a big impression in the Amakhosi colours.
“I still can’t believe that I scored that goal but now that is all in the past,” he told the Chiefs’ official website, revealing he used the break to reunite with his family in Zimbabwe. I went home and spent time with my family so when I came back my batteries were recharged and I was fired up to start training.
“The coach has been pushing us very hard at training and it has been tough at times. The mood in the camp remains high and we are all excited to be back at work.
“We are all professionals, though, and we understand that we have to work hard. I am not the one to shy away from hard work.
“I know that it was through hard work that I am here at Chiefs and it’s going to take hard work for us to meet our objectives this season.”
Zvasiya already has a nickname, which is related to his Zimbabwean roots, and the Chiefs’ fans now call him ‘Harare.’
The Amakhosi have been looking for a reliable goal-scorer, since they lost Musona, to lead their line and, in the first half of the season, it was clear that the gap left by the Smiling Assassin had not yet been filled.
Amidu, who prefers to play wide on the flank, is unlikely to provide the answer as the spearhead of the attack but there is a possibility he could be moved into a more central attacking role.