SuperSport United coach Kaitano Tembo has attributed “hunger and determination” as making Zimbabwean footballers standout among imports in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Twelve of the 16 PSL clubs currently have on their books players from South Africa’s neighbours up north of the Limpopo River.
One of the best footballers ever produced in Zimbabwe George Shaya and the late Shadreck Ngwenya turned out for Moroka Swallows in the 1970s, while Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo signed for Kaizer Chiefs in November 1975.
This opened the way for a wave of Zimbabwean players in South Africa, highlighted by the likes of Wilfred Mugeyi, former Jomo Cosmos forward Benjani Mwaruwari, Tinashe Nengomasha and Khama Billiat who have all been crowned PSL Player of the Season.
Mugeyi, Gilbert Mushangazhike and Knowledge Musona have won the PSL top goalscorers award.
“I think sometimes when you get into a foreign land you have to bring something different. I think Zimbabwean players bring something different in terms of hunger and determination to do well,” Tembo told Goal.
“I think that has been the difference you know all these years it has all been about the hunger and desire to succeed and finding this league as a stepping stone to get into bigger things.”
Benjani, Mushangazhike, Musona, and lately ex-Kaizer Chiefs defender Teenage Hadebe and former Orlando Pirates midfielder Marshall Munetsi have made breakthroughs in Europe's top leagues from the PSL.
Ex-Manchester City forward Benjani went on to play for four Premier League clubs while Musona tasted Bundesliga football straight from Kaizer Chiefs and Munetsi is in Ligue 1.
“If you can talk about Benjani who went to play in Europe, as well as Knowledge Musona. I can count a lot of them and it has all been about that; the hunger and desire to succeed and that is one thing we have brought into the PSL,” said Tembo.
Tembo has been in South Africa since 1998 and has interestingly spent 21 years at SuperSport, first as a player and now coach.
Regarded as a future heavyweight tactician, he recently completed a La Liga Masterclass coaching course and is currently in charge of four Zimbabweans Onismor Bhasera, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Evans Rusike and goalkeeper Washington Arubi at Matsatsantsa.
One of the greatest footballers to emerge from Zimbabwe, Peter Nldovu has also played in the PSL with Mamelodi Sundowns although he came back to Africa in the twilight of his career.
However in the past two seasons, players like Prince Dube (SuperSport United), Thomas Chideu (Ajax Cape Town and Golden Arrows), Gerald Takwara (Ajax Cape Town), Dominic Chungwa (Polokwane City), Clive Augusto, Gabriel Nyoni, Junior Zindoga (all Maritzburg United), Rodwell Chinyengetere (Baroka FC) as well as Frai Madhanhanga and McClive Phiri (both Bidvest Wits) have disappointed.