Marvelous Nakamba says he is more than just another footballer, in the English Premiership, but is someone who now carries the role of sporting ambassador for his country.
The 25-year-old Warrior believes he also carries the load of having to do well at Aston Villa to try and inspire the next generation of Zimbabwean footballers desperate for such a huge break.
Nakamba featured in his second English Premiership match against Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday, where the 10-man Gunners showed remarkable resilience to twice come from behind and win a five-goal thriller 3-2.
Gabonese international forward, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scored the late winner.
Villa manager, Dean Smith, kept Nakamba in the first XI, after being impressed by his club man-of-the-match performance on his league debut in the goalless draw home draw against West Ham, while highly-rated Brazil Under-21 captain Douglas Luiz was pushed out of the team.
“I had a decision to make,” Smith revealed in his post-match interview on Twitter. “Trezeguet came back and I’ve got Conor (Hourihane), Henri (Lansbury) and Douglas.
“I was pleased with Marvelous’ (Nakamba) performance against West Ham United and I just felt I didn’t need three midfielders on the bench, I needed Keinan Davis and Jota on there as well.
“Two defenders, two midfielders and two forwards.”
Nakamba featured for 84 minutes at the Emirates as part of a three-man midfield that also included goal-scorer, John McGinn, and skipper Jack Grealish.
After the match at the Emirates, Nakamba spoke to fellow Zimbabwean, Stanley Kwenda, a journalist and producer of the BBC “Where Are They Now’’ series.
The midfielder said his appearance in the English Premiership was more than just football, but something bigger than the game, including promoting the profile of his country and being a role model for millions of young Zimbabweans who also dream of such big breaks.
“It’s good for my country to have someone representing them and I also think it’s good for the upcoming players, the young ones back home,” he told Kwenda in an article he filed for BBC Sport.
“I think they can believe and have faith that nothing is impossible.
“My family back home are proud of me. They are always watching me, they are pushing me and I just want to keep on representing them and try my best and keep on learning.
“The Premier League standard is higher when compared to the Belgian league but, of course, in Belgium I played Champions League with Club Brugge.
“Champions League and Premier League is almost similar and so it’s been good.
“This is my first year here, I am still trying to settle, to learn and give everything every time I am given the opportunity to play. I am proud to be part of a great team with a great history like Aston Villa. It’s an opportunity for me to learn and do my best and try to give everything.”
Nakamba said he now has to inspire the next generation of Zimbabwean footballers the way his pursuit for a place in the Premiership was also inspired by Bruce Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari.
“It’s something that keeps pushing me. It gives me confidence, faith and belief in myself,” Nakamba told Kwenda.
The Zimbabwean midfielder was confident, ahead of Villa’s trip to the Emirates, he would keep his place in the team after his solid show against West Ham and says his teammates and the Villa staff have been helping him settle.
“It’s been a case of so far, so good. It’s been fantastic,’’ he told his club’s official website.
“Everyone is helping me to settle, I’m pushing myself as well. My team-mates have done everything to make me feel good, too.
“There is always room for improvement and it can get better. But I feel good, I’ve had the experience of my debut.
“Given the opportunity, I will tell myself to give everything every time, in football there are no limits, There is always room for improvement.
“You can always get better and better and better. Compared to other leagues, the Premier League is different level. Now I want to improve.’’
Ashley Preece, the dedicated Aston Villa reporter at The Birmingham Mail, gave Nakamba a 5 out of 10 in his player ratings for the Arsenal match.
“Was fine in the first period anchoring the midfield, but couldn’t cope in the second half as Guendouzi stepped it up amidst a barrage of pressure,’’ Preece noted.
“May have found speed and strength of Arsenal too much — didn’t take sting out of Arsenal as they broke forward. In the end, it was tough going.
Goal-scorer, McGinn, said Villa were, once again, found lacking in their game management at the Emirates.
“That is two weeks in a row that teams down to 10 men have affected us badly. We have addressed it in the dressing room,’’ he told BirminghamLive.
“I don’t know if it is a lack of belief or tiredness, which it shouldn’t be. We should be creating the chances but we weren’t.
“We showed we are dangerous and scored a good goal, concede one and then show it again. But we got deeper and deeper and you can’t do that.
“It is game management. It has cost us dearly this season. When you force pressure on yourself you get punished. We need to capitalise when things go for us in the game.” The Herald