Tide changes as Zim players flock to the Zambian football el Dorado

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Tide changes as Zim players flock to the Zambian football el Dorado

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 19, 2018

    > Robson Sharuko

    Harare – After a quarter of a century in which a number of Zambian coaches and talented footballers crossed the Zambezi and moved to Zimbabwe in search of little fortunes, the tide has changed with a growing number of Zimbabweans now moving across the great river to pursue their professional careers.   

    The late Derby Mankinka, Webster Chikabala, Ian Bakala, Dabwitso Nkhoma, Ferdinand Mwachindalo, Clive Mwale, Charles Chilufya, Francis Kasanda, Laughter Chilembe, Kelvin Kaindu and giant defender Aaron Katebe all came to Zimbabwe and left a big impression on the domestic Premiership with their skills.

    Bakala and Chilembe provided the backbone for the dominant CAPS United side which won back-to-back league championships in Zimbabwe in 2004 and 2005 while Chilufya is considered one of the greatest players to feature for Highlanders where he also won the league championship.

    Diminutive forward Mwale turned himself into a darling of the Dynamos fans, with his goal-scoring instincts, while the late Mankinka left a flood of memories, thanks to his silky skills, after featuring for the now-defunct Darryn T.

    And the Zambian gold rush was not only limited to the players with a number of coaches, Fewdays Musonda, the late Keegan Mumba, Fordson Kabole, Kaindu and Chikabala all having coaching stints with top Zimbabwean sides.

    Kaindu was only denied a league championship by goal difference, during his time in charge of Highlanders, by Dynamos after a riveting campaign throughout the year while he also guided unfashionable How Mine into the final of the Chibuku Super Cup last year where they lost to Harare City.

    However, things have changed dramatically in the past year.

    Now, a number of Zimbabweans are flocking into the Zambian top-flight league with former Golden Boot winner Nelson Maziwisa having settled at Kabwe Warriors, Tafadzwa Rusike having joined Zanaco and Buildcon FC building an empire around some footballers from this country.

    The Ndola Moneybags, who have ambitions of becoming a powerhouse in the game in their country, have been investing in a number of Zimbabwean players who include goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva, who was in goals for Zimbabwe at the 2017 Nations Cup finals, Partson Jaure and Nqobizita Masuku who was signed from local champions FC Platinum.

    This week, Zimbabwe international midfielder Devon Chafa joined his fellow countrymen at Buildcon FC when he penned a two-year deal with the Ndola side after having been publicly courted by Harare’s two biggest football clubs Dynamos and CAPS United.

    “We were very close to retaining Devon for another season or so and negotiations were going on very well and he had told us he would sign in a day or so but then this Zambian club came and everything changed and he chose to go and play for them,” CAPS United president Farai Jere told The Southern Times.

    “It’s a bit frustrating because he is a very good player and we helped him rediscover his form when he turned for us last season but these things happen in football and you have to accept it and move on and hope you get someone who can match or even better that standard.

    “The Zambians might be offering more than us, I don’t know, because I haven’t seen the figures but that’s the way football is, players come and go and we have always been a club that gives players a chance to shine and I can assure you that we will have more players shining.”

    But why are the Zambians wooing the Zimbabwean players and why have all the Zambian coaches, who used to ply their trade in this country, headed back home with Kaindu being unveiled as the new Power Dynamos gaffer while Tennant Chiluba, who enjoyed some success in this country at Hwange and FC Platinum, is doing well back in his home country?

    The Zimbabwe Premiership has better sponsorship when compared to the Zambian top-flight but it appears that the clubs across the Zambezi are ready to break the bank in giving players good packages which has seen many of the local stars moving to that country.

    The US$3.5 million television deal likely to be unveiled in Zimbabwe provides more rich pickings to the clubs than what their counterparts in Zambian enjoy.

    “There has been a resurgence in Zambian football since winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. This win reignited the passion for the local game which had been in decline since the late 1990s,” Ponga Liwewe, the Football Association of Zambia secretary-general, told The Sunday Mail.

    “More recently, success in winning to 2017 U20 Africa Cup has seen crowds rise to new heights. The heightened passion for football has given the game a huge boost.

    “Success on the field feeds into the desire for more companies to be associated with the game. In Zambia where many clubs are owned by companies, they see a growing passion and this makes football a good investment for them.”

    But if there is a club that demonstrates the financial muscle which has been luring Zimbabwean clubs to Zambia then it has to be Buildcon FC.

    It is owned by Zambian millionaire businessman Moses Mubanga, who is the founder and chief executive of Buildcon, one of the country’s biggest and fastest growing firms with interests in construction and engineering. The Zambian club is currently on a two-week pre-season tour of Zimbabwe.

    Mubanga’s financial muscle has seen him wooing players from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Nigeria and Uganda and also investing in the services of coaches from Spain and Italy in a bid to turn Buildcon FC into giants in Zambian football.

    Last year, in their maiden season in the Zambian top-flight league, Mubanga’s team usually had 95 percent of foreign players in their line-up.

    Already he has four new Zimbabweans in his squad and reports indicate he is also eyeing a fifth one, striker John Zhuwawu.

     
     
     

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