BY HENRY MHARA FORMER Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari has admitted that he did not perform to his best for the national team and that is his biggest regret in an otherwise successful football career.
Mwaruwari was capped 42 times for the national team, scoring 10 goals in a period spanning from 1999 to 2010.
He retired from international football on October 11, 2010 following Zimbabwe’s 0-0 draw against Cape Verde.
Speaking during a chat show In Conversation with Trevor, the Undertaker, as he is affectionately known, says it was an honour for him to don the famous gold and green Warriors jersey.
“Playing for your country is always nice,” Mwaruwari said. “The whole country will be watching and you want to produce the goods; you want to do well for your country. I wish I could have done more for Zimbabwe, like (helping the country) win the Afcon (Africa Cup of Nations) or score more for Zimbabwe, but I didn’t do it so now I need to get the knowledge I acquired and pass it to somebody else.”
In 2001, when he was playing for Jomo Cosmos, the first foreign club he joined, Mwaruwari revealed that coach Jomo Sono asked him to snub a national team call-up for a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo so that he could attend the player awards.
He turned down his coach’s request and missed the ceremony where he won the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards.
“I am glad that I am a coach now, so I will be happy if I introduce someone who can better what I was not able to do. Then as a football nation we can grow that way.”
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Mwaruwari spent 10 years in Europe and is one of a few Zimbabweans to have featured in the English Premier League (EPL), widely regarded as the best football league in the world.
He turned out for four EPL clubs — Portsmouth, Manchester City, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers — scoring 27 goals and providing eight assists in 137 appearances.
“I hate it when people say there are only three or four (Zimbabweans) who played in the English Premier League — that is Peter Ndlovu, Benjani, Marvelous Nakamba and Bruce Grobbelaar. You look at other nations like Ivory Coast, you cannot say that statement. You also look at a country like Senegal, they have more than 40 players who have played in the English Premier League,” the Ngezi Platinum Stars coach said.
Asked why local players should aspire to play overseas instead of making the domestic league bigger and powerful financially, Mwaruwari said that will only happen if football management in the country improves.
“There are a lot of things that need to be changed,” he said. “We are still far behind. Recently, we had a situation in Bulawayo in a match between Dynamos and Highlanders. Whoever did that (caused violence that led to the abandonment of the match) has to pay for it and football has to continue. But everyone was made to pay for the things that were done by Dynamos and Highlanders which is not fair for the other teams. We have to get our football management in order.”
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