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Is the Absa PSL developing or killing our players?

By Mxolisi Ncube

The great trek by Zimbabwean soccer players to South Africa has been underway for years. The players have found a Mecca in the Absa Premiership, where the “beautiful game” pays substantially more than it does locally. 

Willard Katsande
Willard Katsande

So great has been the number of our players either joining or trying their luck in the SA league that some locals have been incensed at their presence, just as they have been incensed with the large numbers of Zimbabwean migrants.

Europe has obviously been erased from the ambitions of many a talented Zimbabwean soccer player and in its place, SA has become the place to be. However, most of the players who have arrived in the Absa Premiership amid pomp and fanfare and carrying a lot of promise, have failed to make the grade.

Seldom do SA clubs buy unknown Zimbabwean players. Those who have made the grade would have been household names in the Castle Premiership, but most have found the going tough south of the Limpopo. Others have dropped to the lower divisions or been sent packing after their failure to make the expected impact.

From Ralph Matema to Ramson Zhuwawo, Evans Chikwaikwai, Simba Sithole, Denver Mukamba and Takesure Chinyama, a great number of our boys have failed to live up to their billing. This raises questions on whether the move to SA leads to development, or destroys our players.

When he arrived in South Africa, where he joined Orlando Pirates, Matema was the top goal scorer in the Castle PSL – the most-feared hit man at Highlanders. Yet he found himself being restricted to the bench until he requested a loan move to Witbank Spurs, where he later requested to remain permanently at the expiry of the loan spell.

He has regained his form there, but countless efforts to move a rung up have failed to yield success. Pirates are a big club with a legion of impatient supporters and great expectations, but so is Highlanders, so Matema could have easily settled.

‘Most of the players have arrived in the Absa Premiership carrying a lot of promise’

Chikwaikwai came to SA as a reigning Zimbabwean Golden Boot Award winner and Soccer Star of the Year, yet he twice failed to make the grade at lowly Bidvest Wits University, as has Mukamba, another Soccer Star of the Year.

Chinyama was a marksman who scored for fun at Pirates, but because he could not show some skill when supporters wanted the shoe-shine piano, he was offloaded when he least expected it. His life has not been the same since then, as he has failed to make it at a smaller club – Platinum Stars.

Some players that have found it easy to gel into the SA league, where success seemingly hinges on which club one chooses to join and how skilful the player is. Khama Billiat has been as exciting at Mamelodi Sundowns as he was at Ajax Cape Town, while Cuthbert Malajila has easily settled in at the same club, just as he had at Maritzburg United.

The two carry undoubted skill and have become the main reason Sundowns are back challenging for honours this season. Esrom Nyandoro has also had his days to shine at the Brazilians, where he was a regular for every season since he arrived in 2004. He even captained the side and has remained highly-valued, even when on the bench.

Tinashe Nengomasha, Nyandoro, Edelbert Dinha, Peter Ndlovu and Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo are all legends of the Absa PSL, while Knowledge Musona, Kingstone Nkhatha, Tapuwa Kapini, Willard Katsande and Carlington Nyadombo are all some of the most-exciting players of the league.

Katsande is however, evidence that choice of a team can also either kill or develop a player. When things failed to work out for him at lowly Ajax, the player was offloaded to the bigger Chiefs, where he has become an overnight star.

It therefore, becomes the duty of agents to force moves to a club that demands the kind of game a particular player will easily adapt to, not just any team. That way, our players will get developed more than they get destroyed. The Zimbabwean

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