There are overseas players eligible to play for Zim

HARARE - A few years ago, Mzansi’s senior national football team went on an aggressive talent identification programme aimed at assembling only the best players for Bafana Bafana.

The search was not only limited to the boundaries of Mzansi.

It was diversified to cover the length and breadth of this universe.

When Bafana won the African Nations Cup tournament in 1996, they became ambitious and their next goal was to conquer the universe.

Before the 1998 World Cup in France, they checked on all players eligible to play for Bafana — the bad, average and brilliant — and brought them on board.

The Bafana side that played in the France’98 had the likes of Pierre Issa who played for Olympic Marseilles, Delron Buckley (Bochum, Germany) and goalkeeper Hans Vonk from Netherlands.

Another prolific striker Shaun Dundee, who was the hottest property in Germany for Bayer Leverkusen, turned down the offer but soon after, his career went on a shocking downward spiral.

No one has ever heard of him since then.

Needless to say that Bafana squad failed to reach the second round of the World Cup but on face value, there was a remarkable improvement in all the technical aspects of the game.

Most of these same players took part in the next World Cup in Korea and Japan and this was a trend which was to become synonymous with Mzansi football.

No sportsperson who has links with this country and has exceptional talent goes unnoticed regardless of where he stays or lives.

Even the current squad which will do duty against Poland and Kenya on October 12 and 16 respectively has a huge contingent of players who have never kicked the ball within the Premier Soccer League confinements but are eligible for the national team.

There is Dean Furman, captain and midfielder for Oldham Athletic and Ricardo Nunez who was born in South Africa but raised in Portugal.

New coach Gordon Igesund, whose mother was born and bred in Zimbabwe, by then Rhodesia, insists the two European based faces are not the last in the Bafana squad as he chases a second Afcon title on home soil next year.

With Steven Pienaar having quit international football, Igesund says the availability of players living overseas will provide him with enough cover to realise his dream of winning the Afcon tournament.

West and North African countries have followed this process with great success.

Some of their best players are those who are only connected to a particular country through ancestral descent.

Note, this is a feature not only common in Africa. When France won the 1998 World Cup, half of the players were either born in Ghana, Senegal, Algeria or the Caribbean. England and Germany teams are not an exception either.

Having looked at all this, I am forced to reflect why Zimbabwe with several players whose parental background are from the country, cannot take advantage of the same system.

There are several players who can trace their roots to Zimbabwe who are eligible to play for the country. If boxer Derrick Chisora can fight for Britain we can also do with players from that side to help our cause.

Angola, who we have to beat Zimbabwe to qualify for the 2013 Afcon tournament will be fielding several players who have never grown up in the diamond-rich country.

While, I don’t have names on my palms, proper research will ascertain that there are some good players doing duty overseas who can help the country achieve its long-cherished dreams.

These players can also help tutor one or two things to our locally bred players who still lack experience at the international level. - Tinotenda Panashe

*Tinotenda Panashe is our South Africa-based columnist and correspondent. He can be contacted by e-mail at Tinotenda.Panashe@gmail.com.


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