An international striker was lurking inside the rising basketball star – and even he didn’t know it yet!
Now a celebrated goal-scorer for Chinese Super League debutante’s Dalian Yifang, Mushekwi says that if people don’t believe, they only need to look at his life. “I’m just a regular guy and looking at my life now – it’s unbelievable.”
Growing up in Harare, Zimbabwe, Mushekwi was a natural sportsman, playing cricket and hockey, and enjoying athletics. His big sporting break came when he excelled in an NBA outreach programme in Harare. The 6’ 2” athlete was chosen as the Most Valuable Player and went on to play internationally. It was only while waiting for an offer from a US College that Mushekwi starting to kick instead of bounce, pass and shoot the ball.
“I was waiting for the call to go over for trials,” says Mushekwi. “I had to be on top of my game but training was getting a bit boring so my friend suggested I join their social soccer league.”
He started out in the goals, but soon moved upfront where his flair for scoring soon kicked in.
Playing at the Motor Action FC grounds, a friend encouraged him to try out for the Premier League. Their first approach to Motor Action FC was stonewalled.
With more belief in Mushekwi than he had in himself, the friend arranged an intro with a director at rival club, CAPS United. “This boy is so good,” he hustled hard for the basketball star. One look at Mushekwi’s powerful physique and the director was sold – all that was left for Mushekwi to do was impress the coach.
This can be tricky as coaches aren’t partial to having players foisted on them. Luckily the team had won their previous fixture so the day Mushekwi rocked up at his first practice was festive and relaxed. “I’ve brought you a Big Striker,” the friend announced – giving rise to what became his common moniker, ‘The Big Nyasha Mushekwi’.
Not long after signing for CAPS United, Mushekwi gave up trying to juggle basketball practice with soccer. He was scoring goals, winning fans over and loving the game!
“I still owe that friend so much – one day I will find a way to repay him for his belief in me. Everything started going crazy!” he says.
It was a rapid rise to fame, with even his family caught by surprise! “It’s been a rollercoaster ride.”
Next stop was SA’s PSL where he was briefly courted by Kaiser Chiefs before taking a deal with Sundowns. Local fans will remember the Big Striker for his goal-scoring days at the Brazilians where he netted 40 goals in 53 starts. Once his three years at Sundowns was up, his optional two years took him to Belgian club, K. V. Oostende, and Swedish team Djurgadens.
“Playing overseas doesn’t bring instant success,” he says. “Fortunately, I enjoy learning about different cultures and mixing with the local guys.” He fondly recalls playing for the passionate Swedish fans where his nickname “Moosh” echoed around the stadium.
Playing in China
Moving to China at the end of 2015 was a welcome break for Mushekwi. “When China came up, I didn’t think twice,” he says. “China has turned out great for me!”. It was an opportunity to get over a failed marriage and PSL team posturing.
The cultural shock of moving to China is seismic. “The language is different, the food, the weather and, even the style of play takes some getting used to,” he says.
“They are very physical on the field. It’s not unusual for opponents to trade off a yellow or red card for taking you out of a game if you’re identified as a threat,” he says, sharing a clip of him surviving a potentially career-ending tackle to prove the point.
“Chinese food is very different from what we’re used to eating in Africa,” says Mushekwi who defaulted to eating a limited range of dishes. Now he cooks for himself and relies on his sister to visit him with a regular supply of pap.
Tight restrictions on the number of foreign players in the team mean that only three can be playing at one time. “The maximum number of foreigners is four – so one can be on the bench but if they’re subbed, another foreign player has to come off. That way they’re growing their own talent.”
Finishing top of the Chinse second division in the 2017 season, Mushekwi’s team – Dallian Yifang FC – move up into the lucrative Super League in 2017. For fans from the coastal town situated East of Beijing, March kick-off can’t come soon enough.
Investing in Blythedale Coastal Estate
Although he still has a few good years of the game in him, Mushekwi is looking forward to life after the demanding routine of professional football. He believes that property is a wise investment. “I’ve always wanted to own a property portfolio and to understand the property market better,” he says. “Blythedale Coastal Estate looks like an ideal addition to my portfolio,” he says. “Being by the ocean, with plenty of space and natural beauty to chill and entertain family and friends.”
The globe-trotting dad doesn’t have a fixed timeline for settling down. He’s followed his dreams so far and the commitment he showed to first basketball, then soccer, has rewarded him handsomely.
“Mushekwi radiates positivity and possibly,” says eLan Property Group CEO, Mark Taylor. “We’re lucky to have a guy of his calibre onboard as a brand ambassador and look forward to building a long-term future together at Blythedale Coastal Estate.”
When he heads back to take on the Super League, we’ll be rooting for him and the Blue Hawks! Go Moosh!