Zimbabwe: Rushesha Aims for the Stars

16 January 2020

Zimbabwe senior national football team target Tivonge Rushesha is looking at breaking into the first team at Swansea City after he recently signed his first professional contract with the Welsh club.

The teenage sensation is one of the many promising talents in Europe and at 17 years he is already dreaming big after establishing himself with the side's developmental side, which plays Under-23 competitions in Europe.

According to the official Swansea City website, Rushesha committed his future to the Swans by putting pen to paper on a new two-year deal, which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2022.

The fullback has posted his pictures with officials from Swansea on his social media handles and indicated that his goal is to make the first team, under manager Steve Cooper, over the next two years.

"It feels amazing. I've been at the academy for a while and everyone's goal is to sign their first professional deal.

"Thankfully, I've been able to do that and, hopefully, this allows me to continue working towards reaching my end goal of playing in the first team.

"Now, it's about working hard and continuing to develop. As a young footballer, my main goal is getting into the first team, and that's what I want to do over the next two years," he told the club's official website.

The Zimbabwe-born defender recently returned to action after eight weeks out with a foot injury and is hoping to make the right-back spot his own once more. The injury and the expiry of his Zimbabwean passport scuppered what could have been his first senior national team call up with Zimbabwe ahead of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Zambia and Botswana towards the end of last year.

His passport has since been renewed and he could be considered again for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in March.

Rushesha moved to the United Kingdom from Zimbabwe in 2003 as an infant and has played youth football with Wales national age-group teams.

He was part of the Welsh Under-19 squad for the international friendly against Austria in October last year but has declared his desire to be part of the Warriors in the future since FIFA rules allow junior players to switch allegiance.

Rushesha, who counts Benjani Mwaruwari and Aston Villa's Marvelous Nakamba among his role models, last year described the Warriors call-up by interim coach Joey Antipas as an honour.

"I feel privileged to be in such a position. I have followed the Africa Cup of Nations on television and have heard a lot about CAPS United from my father who always talks about (the late) Joel Shambo. I visit Zimbabwe very often, on average every two years, because that's where I was born and it's home.

"I always enjoy spending time with my extended family -- loads of brothers and sisters," he told The Herald then.

The defender has seen his football career grow in the past year. After breaking into the Under-23 squad last season, he has been a regular feature for the Swansea development side, playing 12 times in all competitions this term.

"It's been great to step up to the Under-23s this season," he said.

"It has allowed me to be exposed to better players and opposition, as well as playing with more experienced players in our team.

"Now I'm back, I just want to kick on from where I left off and get as many games as I can. The main goal is to solidify my place in the Under-23 side again and be more involved in goals and be better defensively."

Rushesha's solid start to the season was rewarded with a first-team debut against Cambridge in the Carabao Cup in August last year at the tender age of just 17 years and 35 days old.

The right-back became one of the youngest players ever to represent the Swans, and it is no surprise that he looked back on the experience with fond memories during his interview with the Swansea website.

"The day of the game was incredible. It's so hard to explain but it was such an amazing feeling. It was crazy looking around the dressing room and seeing players you've known growing up through the academy. Playing on the same pitch was surreal.

"When the gaffer told me to get ready, I did straight-away and I think he was surprised by how quickly I had! I had so much adrenaline; I couldn't believe what was going on.

"When I stepped on the pitch, everyone helped me and once I made my first pass, it all quickly felt quite normal.

"That's something you can't take away from me. It's great knowing I've accomplished that. Whenever I'm in doubt, I can always remind myself that I've done that," said Rushesha.

The teenager, who has trained with the senior squad at Fairwood on several occasions, is encouraged by the clear pathway to the first team under Cooper.

The head coach and his staff are regularly seen watching the under-23s' matches at Landore -- something that serves as extra motivation for Rushesha and his team-mates.

"All the first-team staff always make sure your head is screwed on and that you're looking down the right path," he continued.

"The gaffer is always happy to sit down and chat with you. He tells me that so long as I'm performing the best I can, it gives me the best opportunity to take my chance if it comes.

"It's amazing when you see him at all the under-23s' home games. Sometimes, he's also at away games but, if not, other first-team staff are there.

"It's great that the staff are visible and that we're being taken notice of.

"It's very important for us knowing that if we're performing, we will be seen."

Rushesha is now focused on repaying the club's faith in him over the next couple of years.

And he knows he must continue to keep his head down for the remainder of this season and strive for further chances to shine in the senior environment at Fairwood.

"To make my debut so early was amazing. I was so pleased that all the staff had the faith to put me in," he added.

"I now need to repay that by continuing to work hard and, hopefully, that will lead to more opportunities.

"Between now and the end of the season, training with the first team on a more frequent basis is important and, hopefully, the success continues for me."

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