Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
COSTA NHAMOINESU, who transformed himself into one of the stars of the Warriors’ successful qualification bid for the 2017 AFCON finals, has quit international football – bringing to an end a rocky romance with the national team. He has walked away from a stage where his full potential was never paraded.
The gangly 33-year-old defender last featured for the Warriors in an AFCON finals match against Tunisia in Gabon two years ago, in a game in which the national team slumped to a 2-4 defeat.
And, while he answered the call to play in the COSAFA Cup last year, he withdrew from the squad on the eve of their road trip to South Africa.
Nhamoinesu became a fan favourite with his high-octane performances for the Warriors during the 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers, imposing his presence on the team’s defence where he quickly established himself as the leader at the back.
He also played the game with the kind of passion supporters like to see from those representing them.
But, beyond that romance which flourished during those two years, was the darkness of a difficult relationship between the player and the team, with those who were in charge of ZIFA claiming he had snubbed numerous calls to come and represent his country.
Successive teams of those who manage the Warriors went as far as questioning the defender’s commitment to the team’s cause, with some accusing him of feigning injuries to keep himself away from the side.
However, Nhamoinesu kept insisting that he was loyal to his national cause, but sometimes the invitation didn’t come on time, some of it was sent straight to him rather than his club as per procedure and some of the calls never came at all making it impossible for him to join the Warriors in camp.
This strained relationship meant that Nhamoinesu didn’t enjoy the successful international career which his talent certainly deserved and a return of just eight matches, in the AFCON qualifiers and finals, speaks volumes of the massive opportunity that was lost along the way.
A 1-1 draw against Guinea on September 6, 2015, marked his first excursion in the AFCON qualifiers, at the ripe age of 29, and his teammates on that day were Washington Arubi, Milton Ncube, Eric Chipeta, Patson Jaure, Danny Phiri, Willard Katsande, Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona,Nyasha Mushekwi and Cuthbert Malajila.
Matthew Rusike and Kuda Mahachi came in as substitutes.
He then featured in the 1-1 draw away to Eswatini, the 4-0 thrashing of the same team in Harare, the 3-0 win over Malawi at the National Sports Stadium, where he scored his only goal for the Warriors, and the 0-1 loss in Guinea when qualification for the 2017 AFCON finals had been secured.
At the AFCON finals in Gabon two years ago, Nhamoinesu played in all matches for the Warriors – the 2-2 draw against Algeria, the 0-2 defeat at the hands of Senegal and the 2-4 thrashing by Tunisia.
He went on Twitter on May Day on Wednesday to announce he was ending his international football career at a time when there has been huge speculation that he could be one of the players considered for the AFCON finals in Egypt.
‘‘Calling it a day at international level. Thank you God for the opportunity. Thank you Zimbabwe,’’ Nhamoinesu tweeted and, immediately, it drew a lot of responses.
His former teammate, Rusike, called him the King.
‘‘Thank you for your service. Your leadership. Your guidance. Most of all your patriotism, KING,’’ tweeted Rusike from his base in Europe.
Football pundit, Barry Manandi, went with a simple message, ‘‘thanks for your service big man!!! #ForeverAWarrior,’’ while Mistry Chipere, who has been working to get some players, who were born in Europe to play for the Warriors, said ‘’not yet time to quit Jahman, you need to groom heir to the throne, we still need you man.’’
Goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva said ‘‘respect,’’ while Darlington Hove responded with a message, ‘‘thank you for serving #Zimbabwe Warriors with great enthusiasm and distinction, Zim Asset, once a Warrior always a Warrior.’’
Joel Ncube said Nhamoinesu will be missed.
‘‘Thank you Rasta for your contribution for the national cause. We will miss your services,’’ he said.
Nhamoinesu has spent the last decade playing competitive football in Europe where he first arrived at Polish amateur side KS Wisla Ustroniaka before moving to Zaglebie Lubin where he spent five seasons before a move to the Czech Republic’s most successful club Sparta Prague in 2013.
His current contract runs until June 30, next year.
The defender has also featured in both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League and helped Sparta Prague win the Treble in 2014 on the domestic front when they grabbed the League, Cup and Super Cup in a landmark season for the club.