WARRIORS midfielder Marshall Munetsi’s career progress has “shocked” a lot of people who were not expecting him to move to the French Ligue 1, regarded as one of the top five leagues in the world.
BY HENRY MHARA
The 24-year-old signed a four-year deal with Stade Reims in June 2019 after spending three seasons with South African giants Orlando Pirates.
He featured 21 times for the French league side in his debut season to earn himself a further one-year on his contract which will now expire in 2024.
Speaking to a South African publication this week, Munetsi said most people were not expecting him to move to Europe, let alone joining one of the top five leagues in the world, as he was not getting regular game time at his last club in South Africa.
“When I came here, it shocked a lot of people because of the way things had gone at Orlando Pirates. I did play some part of the season, but because of some reasons, I did not get much game time,” Munetsi said.
The central midfielder started his career at Ali Sundowns Academy in Mabvuku in Harare before moving to Friendly Academy and then Blue Rangers.
He was snapped up by a South African First Division football side Cape Town FC in July 2015.
After a season, he caught the eyes of Orlando Pirates where he signed a five-year deal and was swiftly loaned to Baroka FC.
Two impressive loan seasons in Limpopo followed and he was recalled by his parent club.
However, he was used as a bit-part player at the Buccaneers, making just 28 league appearances in the two years that he spent with the club.
On the few occasions that he was selected to play, he would be played as a makeshift defender.
Despite being played in an unfamiliar position, he didn’t sulk, but made full use of the little time he got.
“I knew before I left Baroka that there were potential deals for me to come to Europe at the time and my former agent Bevan Dicks told me about those offers when I was at Baroka. So moving here, people were shocked about the progress, but then when I came here, the club knew the ability that I had from the potential from the time they started to see me at Baroka and when I was playing for the national team. Coming here, they made it clear that I would be playing as a midfielder, so when I came, it was only for me to showcase my talent,” Munetsi revealed.
“Moving to Europe is something that I prayed for and it’s something that I had already seen that I can do. I remember working with a couple of coaches from Europe who said I have the attributes to make it in Europe. So when you hear people say that, you start to see something in yourself that you did not see before. When I started to play for Pirates even at Baroka. I started to get the feeling that I could go to Europe. So, it’s not something that shocked me, because of the ability that I have.”
He might have received little game time at Pirates, but he remains indebted to the club for affording him the opportunity to be seen by European scouts. He said playing for the Soweto giants was the necessary springboard he needed to make it on to the big time.
“The process of playing for a big club like Pirates, with the pressure that’s there — when you played for clubs that don’t really have the infrastructure that is similar to the countries that are here in Europe, it will be difficult when you come to Europe. I remember at Baroka, we did not have gym sessions, but when you are at Pirates, you get to have a membership at Virgin Active. You get to do some sessions there and you get to analyse your games.
You get to live your life in accordance to the club you play for. So, being part of Pirates was very important for my progress to come to Europe,” Munetsi reflected.
He also reflected on his first season with Stade Reims, which started slowly for him, but gradually picked up. His most memorable moment remains the match against French Ligue 1 champions PSG where he marshalled superstar Neymar.
Reims won the match 2-0 and Munetsi despite being given the huge task to shackle the Brazilian, which many falter at, was voted man of the match.
His club finished the coronavirus-interrupted season fifth and will play in the Uefa Europa league next term.
“I remember during pre-season after I had arrived, I got an injury on my ankle. I had to sit out for, I think, three weeks. When the season started, I was not as fit as I would have wanted. But then when I got a chance to play, I just started to enjoy myself and I think it took a lot of training sessions with the coaches to make sure that I adapt to the system that they play, to make sure I adapt to the physicality and tempo of the league.”
Munetsi added: “The team was doing so well and whenever I got a chance, I would do my best and the coach was impressed with that. I think the first season was a learning curve for me and a good experience to adapt to life in Europe and to adapt to the requirements of the coaches here. So, I really enjoyed myself.”
Stade Reims has started pre-season ahead of next season where Munetsi will go against compatriot Tino Kadewere who plays for Olympique Lyon.
The league is expected to start next month and the two Zimbabwe internationals will come against each other for the first time during match-day 12 on the weekend of November 27-29 when Reims visit Lyon.