By Eddie Chikamhi
Things are beginning to shape up again for Warriors skipper Knowledge Musona who silenced his critics at the weekend when he scored his first professional goal this season on his debut appearance for his new Belgian Jupiler Pro-League football side KAS Eupen.
Musona —who had been frozen out of competitive football for almost a year— declared on Friday when he was unveiled at KAS Eupen that he “will fight every minute on and off the pitch for this beautiful team until the end of season”.
The 29-year-old Aces Youth Soccer Academy alumni was handed the starting place in Benat San Jose’s side on Saturday, only a day after he was unveiled and played 77 minutes.
And, it took the Zimbabwe national team captain 10 minutes to make the first impression with a goal in a league match against Charleroi.
This was their first match after the winter break. The club had lost three consecutive matches before the break to Antwerp, Kortrijk and Genk to plunge to 13th place on the log standings in the 16-team league.
KAS Eupen started badly on Saturday evening after Charleroi raced to a fifth minute lead, courtesy of Mamadou Fall but Musona ensured a share of the spoils with a “gift” goal from the opponents’ goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau.
“The Smiling Assassin” showed quick thinking when the ball landed on his feet after the goalkeeper had miscued a clearance and he responded with a low grounder into the empty goal.
The forward, who is expected to play a key role for the Warriors when Zimbabwe resume the 2021 AFCON qualifiers in March, desperately needed game-time.
And for him to score goals is something that anyone who will soon be appointed the Zimbabwe senior national team coach would be excited with.
ZIFA are expected to finalise the appointment of the technical team following the selection process conducted by the association’s Technical and Development Committee led by Bryton Malandule at the weekend.
Wellington Mpandare, who has worked with the Warriors for a long time as team manager, yesterday hailed Musona’s return to action after the forward scored for KAS Eupen on Saturday.
“This means a lot for the Warriors considering that this boy is the captain of the national team. He is the team leader and he needs the confidence after what he went through last year as far as club football is concerned.
“It’s very unfortunate that he didn’t get game-time at Anderlecht. The good thing is that he has decided to let bygone be bygones and is concentrating on his playing career.
“The fact that he was fit gave the coaches at his new club confidence to play him. He was still doing well for the national team even without game-time at club level.
“But in any case game-time is still needed if you are a professional player. If you see those national team games against Botswana and Zambia, he played some crucial roles but he wasn’t quite to the point. It’s always difficult to last 90 minutes in such games if you are not playing regularly at club level.
“But what was most impressive about him was that he kept training. However, training and game situations are different scenarios. “I have been in touch with him. I spoke to him and he was excited about the goal. We just hope he gains his momentum and will be able to return to his personal best that we have all know him.
“Musona has always delivered for the Warriors and that he is playing professional football again augurs well for the national team since there are crucial AFCON qualifiers coming up in two months’ time,” said Mpandare. Zimbabwe are set to play back-to-back AFCON qualifiers against Algeria in March.
The Warriors are currently second in their group on four points, two behind leaders and reigning Africa champions Algeria, who won both matches against the other group opponents Zambia and Botswana.
Musona created both goals for Zimbabwe when they beat Zambia 2-1 in Lusaka after they had started off with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Botswana at home in November last year.
The forward, who is on the books of Belgian giants Anderlecht, completed his loan move to KAS Eupen last Friday after impressing the club’s bosses during a training camp in Qatar the previous week.
“I got to know the club and the team in the training camp in Doha and this week during training in Eupen and I got a very good impression,” he told journalists in his first press conference.
“I feel good here and I hope to have some time in Eupen and to be able to support my teammates. The friendly against Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven was a good start.
“I am a striker who is versatile. I can play both in the middle and on both sides. I play where the coach uses me, maybe against Charleroi, because I’m fit.”
Musona has 27 caps for Zimbabwe, scoring 19 goals. Before joining RSC Anderlecht, he had played for TSG Hoffenheim and FC Augsburg in Germany. He then moved to Belgium after signing for KV Oostende.
He made a huge impact at KV Oostende where he scored 41 goals and gave 18 assists in 112 Jupiler Pro-League matches over three seasons.
KAS Eupen coach San Jose is also excited by the arrival of Musona.
“Knowledge Musona has integrated very well into the team. He is a player who offers us additional opportunities in attack. He can score goals himself, but can also serve his teammates with good templates,” he said before the weekend’s game.
Meanwhile, Musona’s Warriors teammate Marvelous Nakamba was back in the starting line-up for Aston Villa who salvaged a point in their 1-1 draw against Brighton in the English Premiership on Saturday.
Nakamba is still trying to pick himself up following a recent dip in form and was given a 6/10 rating by the Birmingham Mail.
“Still looks short of confidence, does Marvelous, who apologised to Dean Smith for a wayward pass in the first half.
“Plugged away, though, and was a thorn in Brighton’s side having put a stop to several of their moves. Still a shadow of the player that burst onto the scene following his arrival,” reported the Birmingham Mail.
Nakamba celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday. The Herald