Zimbabwe: Nakamba Further Proof of Zim's Sporting Versatility

That Zimbabwe is able to punch above its weight across a wide range of sporting disciplines is one of the few remaining sources of national pride for this country.

African's greatest Olympian, a world number one golfer, an Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team, a Test cricket number one-ranked batsman, a Paralympics champion, a three-time-in-a-row Comrades Marathon winner, a 10-time tennis Grand Slam doubles title winner, two global rugby Hall of Famers, a diving World Championships gold-medalist.

These are just some of the prime examples of world-class feats achieved in modern times by athletes representing Zimbabwe, or attached to the country, not to mention those that continue to do admirably well under the flags of other nations.

It is rather strange, though, that for a country whose number one sport is indisputably football, the common narrative in some parts of the world -- when it comes to sport in Zimbabwe -- is not about this shared global heartbeat dubbed the beautiful game.

On the face of it, it would appear that the universal low opinion of Zimbabwean football is not totally misplaced.

Zimbabwe only qualified for its first Africa Cup of Nations in 2004, exactly a decade after neighbouring rivals Zambia were losing finalists at the continent's premier football event.

Our other cross-border foes, South Africa, needed just four years following the end of international isolation and arrival of democracy in the Rainbow Nation to be crowned African champions.

As for us, after following up on our maiden 2004 Nations Cup appearance with a second successive trip two years later, the Warriors would only be seen again at the tournament more than a decade later in 2017.

Meanwhile, Zambia just next door - after being denied by Nigeria 16 years earlier - were claiming their first Nations Cup title in 2012 during Zimbabwe's time in familiar oblivion.

It is thus reasonable to conclude that in terms of footballing pedigree, Zimbabwe is a weaker nation that the aforementioned two neighbours, because inevitably the trophy cabinet does not lie.

While sport is often expressed in number terms, like trophies and medals won, if the definition of success was to go undergo deeper scrutiny, we could -- for all we know -- find out that a lot of records are deceptive statistics.

This point can be in part buttressed by a question: if Zimbabwe was desperately poor in football, was it going to produce a quality player like Peter Ndlovu, the first black African to feature in the English Premier League, so good he lasted all those years around the upper echelons of the British game?

What of Bruce Grobbelaar, an absolute legend of English football with Liverpool and a European title winner?

And, of course, not to forget Benjani Mwaruwari, who also left his own unique impression in English football at the peak of his career.

So while Marvelous Nakamba's remarkable start to his Aston Villa career in England will surprise many across the world, it should not bring out the same kind of reaction among football fans in this country.

Truthfully speaking, with the great array of footballing talent we have seen in this country - past and present - Nakamba's arrival on the EPL scene, while obviously exciting, does not surprise a lot of us in Zimbabwe a little bit.

While the new Villa man has given his country a rare reason to cheer in troubles times, our previous three Premiership players also gave Zimbabwe a good reputation in the world's best domestic competition whereas a lot of other African countries -- some with much-hyped football profiles and higher rankings -- struggle to produce a single EPL player.

It is thus hard to assess whether this or that country, in the actual sense, does better than the next in a certain sport -- football, in particular, for the purpose of this argument. Quite evidently, so many factors come into play when it comes to measuring footballing success. Population, economic dynamics, political and sociological circumstances are some of those.

Yet for Zimbabwe, while possessing individual footballers of decent quality here and there is something people in the footballing world really ought to notice -- do not forget Marshall Munetsi in the French top-flight - it would mean nothing ultimately if it does not lead to some kind of national success.

But it what it means is that for now Zimbabwe - at most - deserves a voice where football matters are discussed.

Over and above the other sporting codes we excel at time after time, this all-round ability is something to beat our chests about.

African's greatest Olympian, a world number one golfer, an Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team, a Test cricket number one-ranked batsman, a Paralympics champion, a three-time-in-a-row Comrades Marathon winner, a 10-time tennis Grand Slam doubles title winner, two global rugby Hall of Famers, a diving World Championships gold-medalist.

These are just some of the prime examples of world-class feats achieved in modern times by athletes representing Zimbabwe, or attached to the country, not to mention those that continue to do admirably well under the flags of other nations.

It is rather strange, though, that for a country whose number one sport is indisputably football, the common narrative in some parts of the world -- when it comes to sport in Zimbabwe -- is not about this shared global heartbeat dubbed the beautiful game.

On the face of it, it would appear that the universal low opinion of Zimbabwean football is not totally misplaced.Zimbabwe only qualified for its first Africa Cup of Nations in 2004, exactly a decade after neighbouring rivals Zambia were losing finalists at the continent's premier football event.

Our other cross-border foes, South Africa, needed just four years following the end of international isolation and arrival of democracy in the Rainbow Nation to be crowned African champions.

As for us, after following up on our maiden 2004 Nations Cup appearance with a second successive trip two years later, the Warriors would only be seen again at the tournament more than a decade later in 2017.

Meanwhile, Zambia just next door - after being denied by Nigeria 16 years earlier - were claiming their first Nations Cup title in 2012 during Zimbabwe's time in familiar oblivion.

It is thus reasonable to conclude that in terms of footballing pedigree, Zimbabwe is a weaker nation that the aforementioned two neighbours, because inevitably the trophy cabinet does not lie.

While sport is often expressed in number terms, like trophies and medals won, if the definition of success was to go undergo deeper scrutiny, we could - for all we know - find out that a lot of records are deceptive statistics.

This point can be in part buttressed by a question: if Zimbabwe was desperately poor in football, was it going to produce a quality player like Peter Ndlovu, the first black African to feature in the English Premier League, so good he lasted all those years around the upper echelons of the British game?

What of Bruce Grobbelaar, an absolute legend of English football with Liverpool and a European title winner?

And, of course, not to forget Benjani Mwaruwari, who also left his own unique impression in English football at the peak of his career.

So while Marvelous Nakamba's remarkable start to his Aston Villa career in England will surprise many across the world, it should not bring out the same kind of reaction among football fans in this country.

Truthfully speaking, with the great array of footballing talent we have seen in this country - past and present - Nakamba's arrival on the EPL scene, while obviously exciting, does not surprise a lot of us in Zimbabwe a little bit.

While the new Villa man has given his country a rare reason to cheer in troubles times, our previous three Premiership players also gave Zimbabwe a good reputation in the world's best domestic competition whereas a lot of other African countries -- some with much-hyped football profiles and higher rankings - struggle to produce a single EPL player.

It is thus hard to assess whether this or that country, in the actual sense, does better than the next in a certain sport - football, in particular, for the purpose of this argument. Quite evidently, so many factors come into play when it comes to measuring footballing success.

Population, economic dynamics, political and sociological circumstances are some of those.Yet for Zimbabwe, while possessing individual footballers of decent quality here and there is something people in the footballing world really ought to notice -- do not forget Marshall Munetsi in the French top-flight - it would mean nothing ultimately if it does not lead to some kind of national success.

But it what it means is that for now Zimbabwe - at most - deserves a voice where football matters are discussed.Over and above the other sporting codes we excel at time after time, this all-round ability is something to beat our chests about.

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