When Zimbabwe talisman Benjamin Mwaruwaru, otherwise known as Benjani, quit international football, some wondered who would be the successor to his scoring crown. However, those in the know had already predicted the new king in the form of a stocky, fast youngster named Knowledge Musona.
The 20-year-old striker has carved out a reputation for being a tenacious goal-getter whose appetite for bulging the net has seen him become one of the Southern African League’s hottest talents. Such enlarged predictions, although they carry romance and promise, can be dangerous to a youngster’s career, but Musona is aware of the work that still has to be done.
“At the moment, I’m just enjoying my football. I have been working very hard at training to improve my game. I want to do well so that I can help my country and my club. In that way, I can catch an eye of big clubs,” the mild-mannered striker told FIFA.com with a boyish innocence in his smile that belies a ruthlessness in front of goal for both his club, Kaizer Chiefs, and country, the Warriors of Zimbabwe.
With a 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign that turned into a non-starter and a sluggish beginning to the preliminaries for the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Zimbabwe have been going through a difficult spell. But there are lessons to be learned by the Warriors as they seek to reassert themselves in Southern Africa and the rest of the continent. Bold decisions have had to be taken, with the departure of England-based Benjani bound to shake things up.
An attacking diamond
Musona might not have the star power of Benjani in his native land, nor the prolific scoring record of another Zimbabwe attacking legend, Peter Ndlovu, but he has a rare streak of confidence that comes with a striker hungry to make his mark. When it comes to nurturing talent in front of goal, football pundits often offer polarising opinions. There is a generally accepted school of thought that strikers are born, but then there is a more pragmatic theory that suggests that strikers are developed through training at a young age. Musona certainly does not belong to the latter school, for he only discovered his niche for scoring goals when he was 13. That makes him a natural – a diamond whose shine has yet to be fully found in the rough.
“I have had to adapt to life of being alone in a foreign country,” said Musona when asked about the challenges of being a young player. “All of a sudden, I now have to do my own cooking and house chores. It’s a bit strange, but this is good for me for it's preparing me for the next stage.” Hidden between those words are his ambitions to play in Europe and make a name for himself at one of the big clubs. South Africa is a passage for him to his destination, a bridge from Harare to the land of the Unknown. The move to Kaizer Chiefs took him away from his comfort zone, but many of his countrymen have used the South African League as a stepping stone away from the poverty and daily struggles back home.
However, few have done it with such a splash. In his maiden season for Chiefs, he scored eight goals from ten starts. This season, he has already netted ten goals and many have tipped him for Golden Boot glory in the league. But Musona is not content with what he has achieved in his short life, and he is quick to relate how much he needs to improve in many areas, how he has to polish his awareness and first touch. “The mistake that some guys make is to assume that they have made it once they see their pictures in newspapers,” he said. “In South Africa, many people are talking about me at the moment as if I’m a superstar, but I won’t let that get in my head. I know I’m still young. I haven’t done half of what I want to achieve, this is just the beginning.”
The beginning though can be traced back to the Norton – just a few kilometres from Harare. Those close to him describe him as an introvert, and during interviews, it is easy to see why Musona can be identified as a shy individual. “I don’t go out a lot,” he said. “But I do hang out with team-mates as much as I can. It’s not in my nature to go and party every weekend. Maybe that is why I can come across as a bit anti-social. I don’t talk a lot either. Maybe with my family and close friends, I’m a bit different. But the move to South Africa has helped me a lot. I have learned to deal with strangers, with people who speak a different language.”
Musona made a name for himself in his native land for Aces Youth Academy, but he was only a household name in his native land back then. When he moved to Kaizer Chiefs, the self-styled 'Glamour Boys' of Southern African football, his profile was suddenly in the ascendancy and his youthful career blossomed. And if the goals keep coming, Knowledge is determined to continue learning and improving until even greater dreams have come true.