Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Smash and grab' Musona to blaze a trail in the Bundesliga

 It's almost three weeks since I wrote on this blog about Knowledge Musona's trip to discuss a transfer to Germans TFG Hoffenheim. And, after much delay and the accompanying inevitable speculation, the 21-year-old's move will be confirmed by Kaizer Chiefs at a press conference on Thursday.

Hoffenheim's sporting director Ernst Tanner was reported to have arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday to close the deal for around £1.3 million, making Musona the first Zimbabwean to play in Germany since the wonderfully-named Newton Ben Katanha turned out for second division Armina Bielefeld in 2004. 

But whereas his dreadlocked compatriot is now plying his trade in the second tier of the Swiss League, don't expect the man his home press refer to as ' Smash and Grab' to fade into obscurity.
When the deal is finally announced, Musona will be joining a competitive and ambitious Hoffenheim squad that finished 11th in last season's Bundesliga. Less than 20 years ago, the club from a tiny village in the south-western corner of the country languished in the eighth tier of  German football but steady progression and an injection of enthusiasm and funds from software millionaire Dietmar Hopp saw them turn professional in 2007.

Immediate promotion was followed by a stunning start to life in the top flight as they won the 'Herbstmeister' title awarded to the team who are top at Christmas. Injury to Bosnian striker Vedad Ibisevic eventually saw them drop down to seventh but the club has since maintained its status as a rising force in German football with two successive 11th-placed finishes.

With Celtic and several English clubs also known to have expressed an interest, Musona could certainly have made more money elsewhere (Neil Lennon offered almost £1 million more a few weeks ago). However, it is Hoffenheim's track record at bringing through African players that has persuaded the young striker to take the plunge.

Demba Ba, Chinedu Obasi and Boubacar Sanogo - who incidentally pulled out of a trial alongside Katlego Mphela at Celtic this week with toothache - all played an integral part in the imaginatively-nicknamed 'Hoffe's' historic debut season in the Bundesliga, with the former having enjoyed a decent start to his career in England despite relegation with West Ham. Musona should therefore get plenty of opportunity to show what he can do.
A spectacular start would certainly be welcomed by national team coach Norman Mapeza. Warriors' fans will be licking their lips to see if he can continue to build on his excellent partnership with powerful Mamelodi Sundowns striker Nyasha Mushekwi (match-fixing allegations pending, of course) but with the team still in with a chance of qualifying for next year's African Nations Cup, it could be a first finals appearance since 2006.
Newton Ben Katanha may struggle to get an invite this time though.

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