BIGGER things are predicted for Marshall Munetsi, with the man who first identified him projecting that the French-based midfielder could soon join his fellow Warriors star Marvelous Nakamba in the English Premier League (EPL), arguably the best league in the world.
BY HENRY MHARA
The 23-year-old plays for French Ligue 1 side Stade Reims, which he joined last year on a four-year deal, and after impressing on his debut season, the club rewarded him with a one-year contract extension.
His contract will now expire in 2024.
Desmond Ali, whose Ali Sundowns Academy unearthed Munetsi, is happy with the player’s career progress so far which took him to South Africa playing for top clubs, including Orlando Pirates, before making the big move to Europe last year.
Besides talent, the Ali Sundowns boss reckons Munetsi exhibited other attributes like discipline and commitment to his career from a very young age, which he believes made him unique from the other players at the academy.
The French Ligue 1 is rated among the best five leagues in Europe, but Ali believes that the Zimbabwe international has all the qualities to play in the famed EPL.
Nakamba, who plays side by side with Munetsi in the Warriors midfield, is currently in the books of Aston Villa, a club he joined last year.
“We (Ali Sundwons) believe Marshall will play in bigger European leagues, England in particular, as he has all the attributes required at the higher level,” Ali said.
“Marshal was a disciplined young man, always committed and focused, besides the challenges that the ghetto youths are exposed to. I talk to him regularly and the message is the same … to stay focussed and the bigger picture matters. The sky is the beginning, not the limit. He always aimed higher and he easily made it into Harare province team after Zivanai Chiyangwa (a scout and youth coach) saw the potential in the guy.”
In a recent interview, Munetsi credited much of his career success to Ali Sundowns, an academy based in Mabvuku in Harare, where the player also hails from.
He also mentioned Chiyangwa, former Dynamos coach Lloyd Chigowe and youth coach Patridge Muskwe as some of the key people who played a crucial part in his career development.
“We, as Ali Sundowns, are proud that we have produced an international calibre of a player. We also play tribute to others who took Marshall Munetsi to the next level. For example, coach Patridge Muskwe, renowned talent scout Zivanayi Chiyangwa who assisted him football wise at provincial level, Cape Ubuntu, Baroka and, of course, Orlando Pirates, who gave him the platform at professional level,” Ali said.
Apart from Munetsi, Ali Sundowns has produced other stars such as Clive Augusto of Maritzburg in South Africa, Godknows Mangani, formerly with Caps United, and Dynamos’ recent recruit Nkosi Mhlanga.
Ali said for the country to improve its success in football, more investment would need to be channelled towards youth football. Sundowns currently have under 12 and 14 age group boys teams.
“We need to have patience with youth football, expose the youngsters to playing in front of big crowds to prepare them for future pressure. They should be able to play anywhere,” he said.
But Munetsi remains arguably the academy’s best product and a point of reference.
He made 21 appearances across all competitions for Reims before the French season was halted and prematurely concluded due to the global COVID-19 virus outbreak.
But perhaps what helped Munetsi win the hearts at Reims was more than just solid performances.
“On a sporting and human level, Marshall is one of the great satisfactions of the season. The recruitment cell had studied the man and the player in depth, but there is still this unknown factor linked to cultural and climatic adaptation,” Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot said, explaining on the reasons why they decided to extend Munetsi’s contract.
“Marshall justified the confidence placed in him, his state of mind as well as his performances were remarkable.
“This extension validates a promising first season. This signature touches me all the more since I know all the additional work that the player has done to seize his chance.
“Marshall was our first recruit in the last summer transfer window.
“At the time, it responded to the need defined by the staff to be able to count on an athletic player capable of playing in central defence as in a midfield position.”
When the French league was halted, Reims occupied fifth place on the log standings, which means that Munetsi and his club will play Uefa Europa league next season.
He will also go head-to-head in the division against another Warriors star Tino Kadewere, who is now in the books of giants Lyon.