SuperSport United coach, Kaitano Tembo, says the burning hunger to succeed, and sheer determination, has made Zimbabwean footballers standout in South Africa.
Twelve of the 16 South African Premier Soccer League clubs have on their books, players from the neighbouring country across the Limpopo River.
One of the best footballers produced in Zimbabwe, George Shaya, and the late Shadreck Ngwenya turned out for Moroka Swallows in the 1970s.
Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo signed and starred for Kaizer Chiefs in November 1975.
This opened the way for a wave of Zimbabwean players in South Africa.
They include Wilfred Mugeyi, former Jomo Cosmos forward Benjani Mwaruwari, Tinashe Nengomasha and Khama Billiat who have all been crowned PSL Player of the Season.
Mugeyi, Gilbert Mushangazhike and Knowledge Musona went on to win the PSL top goalscorer award.
“I think, sometimes, when you get into a foreign land you have to bring something different,’’ said Kaitano.
‘’I think Zimbabwean players bring something different, in terms of hunger and determination, to do well.
“I think that has been the difference, you know all these years, it has been about the hunger and desire to succeed and finding this league as a stepping stone to get into bigger things.”
Benjani, Mushangazhike, Musona, and ex-Kaizer Chiefs defender, Teenage Hadebe and former Orlando Pirates midfielder Marshall Munetsi, have made breakthroughs in Europe’s top leagues from the South African PSL.
Former Manchester City forward Benjani went on to play for four Premier League clubs while Musona tasted Bundesliga football straight from Kaizer Chiefs and Munetsi is in Ligue 1.
“You can talk about Benjani, who went to play in Europe, as well as Knowledge Musona,’’ said Kaitano.
‘’I can count a lot of them and it has all been about that; the hunger and desire to succeed and that is one thing we have brought into the PSL.’’
Kaitano has been in South Africa since 1998 and has interestingly spent 21 years at SuperSport, first as a player and now coach.
Regarded as a future heavyweight tactician, he recently completed a Spanish La Liga Masterclass coaching course.
He is currently in charge of four Zimbabweans Onismor Bhasera, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Evans Rusike and goalkeeper Washington Arubi at Matsatsantsa.
One of the greatest footballers to emerge from Zimbabwe, Peter Nldovu, has also played in the South African PSL with Mamelodi Sundowns although he came back to Africa in the twilight of his career.
Ndlovu is now the team manager at defending league champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
However, in the past two seasons, players like Prince Dube (SuperSport United), Thomas Chideu (Ajax Cape Town and Golden Arrows), Gerald Takwara (Ajax Cape Town), Dominic Chungwa (Polokwane City), Clive Augusto, Gabriel Nyoni, Junior Zindoga (all Maritzburg United), Rodwell Chinyengetere (Baroka FC) as well as Frai Madhanhanga and McClive Phiri (both Bidvest Wits) have found the going tough.
A number of Zimbabwean coaches have also worked in South Africa and performed well.
They include the likes of the late Peter Nyama, Roy Barreto and Sunday Chidzambwa. — Goal.com