THERE is a new sporting sensation in Britain with Zimbabwe origins and, one way or another, the young football player is soon destined to hog the limelight in media articles given the current debate in England over qualification to represent that country at an international level.
Arsenal and England football star, Jack Wilshere, has sparked unending debate over the qualification, through several routes, of people who are not of English origin, to represent England at international level after he opposed moves by England’s Football Association to approach young 18-year-old Manchester United winger, Adnan Januzaj, to choose England as his international team.
The youngster will qualify through the five-year residency rule if he does not, in the meantime, choose one of several countries he qualifies to represent — among them Belgium, where he was born, Albania, Turkey, Serbia, because Kosovo is still officially part of the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo, once it has gained international Fifa recognition.
The debate, naturally, affects Zimbabwe as a former British colony and as a country that produces sporting greats in a wide range of disciplines – golf, athletics, boxing, cricket and football especially.
To give a hint of how complex the debate sparked by Wilshere is, it is worth just remarking that England’s first Olympic Games champion was an Australian and its newest cricket batting hope was born in Zimbabwe while their current long-distance star was born in Somalia!
There is also boxer Dereck Chisora who is now a British and European boxing heavyweight champion — Great Britain is getting all the plaudits for a man born right in Mbare!
News articles coming out of England have now thrust another Zimbabwean youngster into the limelight and he will soon be caught in the debate over representing England.
Tendayi Darikwa, aged 21 years and playing for League Two side Chesterfield FC, is apparently being scouted by none other than England champions Manchester United and their manager David Moyes watched the Zimbabwean player last weekend.
If Darikwa signed for Manchester United he would certainly be thrust into a big media frenzy that could only be rivalled by what former goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar reached at Liverpool in the 1980s.
Darikwa, who joined his parents in England when aged 11 years, also qualifies for England, should he choose to play for them, through the residency rule that allows players to choose England if they have been in that country for a continuous period of five years provided they entered that country before their 18th birthday.
If Darikwa joins Manchester United and chooses to play for England this would be great news for Zimbabwe — both positive and negative in equal measure!
Darikwa joined Chesterfield as a 16-year-old after stints at Nottingham Forest and Notts County and he plays both in defence and midfield.
And talking of England and Zimbabwe, national football manager Roy Hodgson, who has guided England to next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, is apparently going to consult another former Zimbabwe sporting great, this time of a cricket nature, Andy Flower, now England national cricket coach, to learn the best way to stave off boredom among his squad during the month-long World Cup finals, assuming of course that England go beyond the group stages.
It makes sense, given that cricket tours last a lot more than a month, especially if they include the full repertoire of one-day internationals, Twenty20s and Tests.
By the way Flower took over from another Zimbabwean, Duncan Fletcher, and both men have helped catapult England cricket to the world heights it is now enjoying.
The Black Stars of Ghana are seemingly through to the World Cup finals in Brazil next year after the swashbuckling 6-1 victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt in the first leg of their Africa Zone final qualifying round at home in Kumasi on Tuesday night.
Despite national coach Kwesi Appiah remaining very cautious, it certainly would take a collapse of calamitous levels for Ghana to allow Egypt to overcome a five-goal deficit and win the tie on away goals.
Surely the West Africans can score at least one goal, to cancel out the away goal they conceded at home and leave Egypt with a Herculean task of needing to score seven goals to go through to Brazil.
Should Ghana go through to Brazil, as is widely accepted, this will be their third successive tango at the finals after playing in South Africa in 2010 and in Germany four years earlier.
In fact, all the other four national teams likely to proceed to Brazil from the Africa Zone are looking at notching at least their second successive appearance at the finals — Nigeria, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast are leading from their first legs and they were in South Africa for the 2010 edition while Algeria, who were also in South Africa, are a goal down to Burkina Faso after being edged 2-3 in a thrilling first leg in Ouagadougou, but they are expected to win and through come the return leg in Algiers next month.
The Ivory Coast are also seeking their third successive World Cup finals after being in Germany in 2006 when they, both with Ghana, exited in the round of 16, the first knockout stage.
Talking about Brazil beyond Africa, England will not be among the eight seeded teams when the group stages draw for the finals is made and, as a result, they might face other European big boys like Spain, Germany and hot shots Belgium as well as possibly the Netherlands should Uruguay fail to qualify for the finals in their play-off against Jordan.